Grants will help build tech centers

The Education Department awarded $44 million in grants to establish 214

Community Technology Centers to bring computers and Internet access to low-income

citizens.

The money will be used to provide services such as work force development

and employment information, preschool and family programs, after-school

activities such as homework assistance, and adult education.

"It's an initial step to make sure our most disadvantaged communities

aren't cut off from these digital technologies," said Norris Dickard, director

of the Community Technology Center program.

The grants, awarded mostly in three-year increments, were given to community

centers, libraries, schools, community colleges, public housing facilities

and other organizations in 27 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S.

Virgin Islands.

However, money was distributed unevenly, with New York getting 13 separate

grants, totaling more than $14.3 million.

Dickard said he had the option of putting the applications through geographic

distribution regulations that would have better distributed the grants.

However, he thought that with 750 applicants, they would be distributed

naturally.

The grants were awarded based on the quality of the proposals, Dickard

said.

"When the panels were rating the applications, there were many good

ones in New York," he said. Dickard said that the distribution regulations

were not used because it would have taken a lot more time. However, Dickard

is considering using that process for next years' grants, he said.

The money is available immediately for the winners, Dickard said. For the

winners to receive the funds for following years, they must first undergo

a review to ensure that significant progress has been made, he said.

Business and community partners matched the grants, donating about $42 million.

The Education Department awards three-year grants for Community Technology

Centers each year. For fiscal 2001, President Clinton has included $100

million for the program, and if appropriated, the competition will begin

in the fall.

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