Great Harvest Offers Free Laptops, Low-Cost Internet
By Dianne Anderson
If the promise of $5, 10, or 19.99 a month high speed no contract internet along with free laptops doesn’t bring them out – nothing will.
It’s not a loaner. It’s a giveaway for all those who qualify.
Thanks to the passage of Internet for All Act (AB 1665), co-authored by Assemblymember Eloise Reyes, there could be a laptop in every local low-income household that shows up for the opportunity.
Internet carriers include AT&T, Spectrum and Frontier, offering different guidelines for qualifications for recipients of MediCal, CalFresh SNAP, or SSI.
On August 24, Great Harvest Community Center is inviting the community for their family festival, and a way to access to free computer classes, laptops, along with a raffle of ten tablets.
“Basically anyone on the Housing [Authority] has an opportunity to get two laptops. The general public, anybody in the state of California has the opportunity to get the Chromebook in signing up for low-cost internet,” said Greg Walker, co-founder of the Great Harvest Community Center, Inc.
The center, a partner with the Housing Authority (HACSB) is implementing its digital literacy training project, with several similar upcoming digital events at various housing authority locations.
No proof of residency is required at the event as they will interview each client to determine the best fit for access based on qualifying criteria. Those who qualify in the Frontier coverage area will also get a free new HP Chromebook from the state of California.
On Saturday, August 24, the event will be held at 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Great Harvest Community Center, located at 906 N. Wilson St., in San Bernardino.
The center operates all of the computer labs for San Bernardino Housing Authority, where they also host free literacy training programs and implement the low-cost internet affordable broadband for the state of California.
The program is geared toward recipients of SNAP, Cal Fresh or anyone with a child on free school lunch qualifies. Walker said they have administered the program since 2016. So far, they’ve served about 450 families.
Many families still struggle to decide on internet access over other pressing household bills. Probably best of all, he said no contract means the internet service can be stopped or restarted as needed.
Because internet access remains limited in low income communities, there is a push at the state level to get everyone laptop and internet access. Earlier this year, the San Bernardino County Housing Authority announced a $484,830 grant from California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) Broadband Public Housing Account for the Broadband Adoption Digital Learning Centers project.
“Residents in the Housing Authority will walk away with their laptop on the spot. About 3,000 laptops are earmarked countywide for housing authority residents. That’s what the grant was for,” he said.
For Housing Authority residents to get their free laptop, they must complete four two-hour classes for a total of eight hours. They can get their laptop by the end of the day.
“We register you at 9:30 in the morning and we hit the ground running and start you on computer basics, internet basics, typing and Microsoft word and doing a budget in Microsoft excel,” he said.
But, to get a free Chromebook, there is a process. A Great Harvest Center operator will call and stay on the three-way line with the client and cable company to ensure they get signed up and qualify for low-cost internet.
He said the key to the low cost internet is that it’s not a contract, but they get to actually keep the Chromebook whether they keep the service or not.
The center has been implementing services since 2014, and they have name recognition.
He said once participants are qualified on their first billing cycle, and can then pick up their Chromebook, or receive shipment.
Residents with housing vouchers can get a free refurbished Dell laptop right on-site the day of the festival. If they want, they can also get a second laptop, a free Chromebrook through the program.
The Mayor will be attending, as well as other dignitaries.
The celebration will bring out school-age kids, and parents for resources, healthcare, and social services.
Owners of the new laptops will learn how to log in to the housing authority’s website, and how to access important portals.
He said that it’s vital to get the community connected because everything now is online.
“All of them are putting applications online now. There are no more paper applications you do it over the website. Even DMV is taking appointments online now,” he said.
Everyone is invited to come out, and their computer classes are free and open to the general public.
“The TAD office will be there, Socal Edison, dentists are giving services, there will be free food and refreshments,” he said. “We’ll have a clown doing face-painting kids. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”