Community Action Month Blog
Virginia Utilizes Public/Private Partnerships to
Bring CAAs to the Table for Expanded Broadband Coverage
When it comes to finding and fostering effective linkages, it is often overwhelming about where to start and where to make connections that could potentially make a real impact. In Virginia, the state office for Community Action Agencies is located within the Department of Social Services, allowing for a wide range of partnerships at multiple levels throughout the state. Recently, they used their unique position to implement strategies to help expand Broadband coverage.
“Because our CAAs are already doing needs assessments as part of the sub-grantee process, we had unique insight and knowledge regarding the digital divide in various communities,” says Matt Fitzgerald, director of the Virginia Office of Economic Opportunity. “Always looking through an ‘equity’ lens, we knew that the Broadband issue was a vital piece of the puzzle missing in helping those we serve and knew that we would have the support of public/private partners.”
The state office, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the Virginia Community Action Partnership started a conversation that led to a strategy to move the needle. Virginia’s Governor, General Assembly and DHCD are providing access across the state for broadband through a build out plan and now DHCD and community action are working to also ensure opportunity in access and adoption for all Virginians. The Virginia state CSBG office played a critical role in the effort as a facilitator, partnering with DHCD and VACAP to host webinars and acting as a liaison between the partners and the community. Ultimately, a $500,000 grant was awarded to increase broadband access and opportunities for low-income Virginians.
DHCD will distribute Digital Equity Act Planning Grant funds to Community Action Agencies (CAAs) who will serve as subgrantees. This unique partnership will allow DHCD to engage with local stakeholders, conduct specific needs assessments, and identify barriers to digital opportunity in their region while developing a regional plan to address discovered disparities amongst covered populations. CAAs will serve as the lead applicants and are being encouraged to partner with other organizations to enhance the development of the regional plan.
“The linkages we’ve created between our public and private partners are about so much more than a funding opportunity,” comments Fitzgerald. “They allow us to take on any role that is needed and bring on an advocate to create change and get things moving.”