Nearly 70 donors contribute to RI Foundation’s challenge grant to close remote learning gap


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island students struggling with access to distance learning are set to receive more help to get online.

Several efforts have been made to help students since distance learning began, including a $100,000 challenge grant from the Rhode Island Foundation.

The challenge grant was intended for other organizations or individuals to step up, according to the Foundation’s President and CEO Neil Steinberg.

“Hopefully, we can at least double, if not more, the $100,000 amount and really get that gap closed now,” Steinberg said in an April 14 interview with Eyewitness News.

Tuesday night, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) announced more than $400,000 was raised by nearly 70 donors to provide computers and Wi-Fi hotspots to school communities with students and families in need.

Donations ranged from $25 to six-figure donations, with the biggest from CVS Health and Brown University.

“Low and behold in wonderful Rhode Island fashion, both the corporate community, the university community and people at large made contributions,” Steinberg said.

The Rhode Island Department of Education estimates the more than $400,000 raised will fund the purchase of approximately 400 hotspots, and about 1,200 computers to close technology gaps for disadvantaged students and families.

At $150,000, CVS Health made the largest donation. The funding will enable the Woonsocket Education Department to purchase 750 Chromebook laptops for students in grades three through five. The assistance will round out the effort to ensure every Pre-K through grade 12 student in the district has access to technology for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $100,000 donation from Brown University’s Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence will support internet access for Providence students through the Cox Connect 2 Compete Program and the purchase of hotspots. The initiative is expected to provide access for 900 student households for the next year and serves a direct need identified by the Providence Public School District.

All of the contributions were made to the Fund for Rhode Island Public Education at the Rhode Island Foundation, created to benefit public K-12 students.

“It doesn’t end the need. If people still want to support this Rhode Island Public Education Fund, we’ll still provide resources if people want to share,” Steinberg said.

Donate to Fund for Rhode Island Public Education here »

In a statement provided by RIDE, Commissioner of Education Angélica Infante-Green said she encourages Rhode Islanders to continue to keep students in mind.

“We are so grateful that we can meet the needs of our students, but we know that we will continue to see the need for more technology as devices wear down,” Infante-Green said. “Rest assured that any amount of a donation will go directly to their education.”

The Challenge Grant isn’t all the RI Foundation is doing to help people throughout the pandemic.

COVID-19 Response Fund

Last month the Rhode Island Foundation and United Way launched the COVID-19 Response Fund to help nonprofits on the frontlines of responding to the COVID-19 crisis cope with rising demand for their services at a time when their traditional sources of fundraising – galas, golf tournaments, fun-runs – had to be canceled.

To date, the Foundation reports it has raised millions of dollars, awarding more than 100 nonprofits $5.7 million in grants, ranging from $10,000 to $75,000.

The latest round of funding, $2.1 million, is going to various food pantries, and centers that provide resources for mental health and domestic violence victims.

Apply, Donate or Learn More Here »

COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund

Additionally, a $5 million COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund was launched to help Rhode Islanders deal with the stresses of the crisis, and the first round of grants are expected to be announced the week of May 4.

Nonprofits can still apply; the deadline for the second round of applications is May 15.

The fund will award grants between $25,000 and $250,000, which will support programs delivering behavioral health services, as well as evidence-informed programs that meet a specific local need related to the pandemic.

Artist Relief Fund

Earlier this month, the Artists Relief Fund was also launched by the Foundation, in collaboration with the Rhode Island State Council of the Arts (RISCA) and the city of Providence.

So far, it has awarded $126,030 in grants to 253 Rhode Island artists experiencing financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More info about applying for assistance or supporting the fund is posted at

Coronavirus: Coverage and Resources

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RI Coronavirus Hotline: (401) 222-8022 | Work-Related Questions: (401) 462-2020 | Mental Health Assistance: (401) 414-5465

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