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“Tech Buddies” Program To Supply Low-Income Seniors With Tablets And Internet Access Amid Pandemic

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Town Administrator Mel Klecker and Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director John F. Sullivan would like to share that the Town of Brookline is offering a pilot program to keep seniors connected to the Internet during the pandemic.

Low-income seniors, living in Brookline and adults with disabilities, who live alone, can obtain a free tablet and/or free internet service for a year, along with technical support, via the Tech Buddies pilot program launched last year.

“The CoViD-19 pandemic highlighted the need to assist low-income families with internet access and many communities responded, but many low-income seniors lost their ability to access the internet through public libraries and other low or no-cost means,” said Sullivan. “This program is aimed at providing a connection to those seniors who are the most vulnerable to CoViD-19 and who are, in many instances, the most isolated due to the pandemic.”

The Brookline Office of Emergency Management received a $28,000 grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in April of 2021 to launch the pilot program.

So far, the program has pre-qualified 47 individuals and delivered tablets to 18 of them. One recipient explained that she was technologically averse, but was pleased to learn a credentialed volunteer was available to deliver the tablet, help set up internet access and provide follow-up support.

During those at-home deliveries, credentialed volunteers provide basic education and offer to return as needed so that participants gain the confidence they need to use their tablets. The program also provides volunteer-based remote tech support for all participants, as well as a binder with large-print, easy to follow instructions for everything from charging the tablet to making a Zoom call.

Participants who do not already have Internet service can receive internet via a low-income Comcast program; the grant will pay for the first 12 months of service. Participants, who do not already own a non-phone device (tablet, laptop, PC, etc.) will receive a tablet, pre-loaded with links to websites and apps to get participants started. The tablet also comes with a protective case and 12 months of free antivirus software, generously donated by Lookout Antivirus.

“It is vitally important that seniors be able to stay connected to their communities, loved ones and important health resources while staying safe amid the pandemic, and we hope this program will facilitate that for seniors who have few other options,” said Sullivan. “I encourage all Brookline residents who qualify and need this assistance to reach out to us immediately.”

To qualify for the program, you must be a low-income Brookline resident age 60 or over, or a low-income adult of any age with a disability. Those, living in Brookline Housing Authority properties and those already participating in other public assistance programs qualify, as do individuals making $25,760 or less, and couples making $34,840.

For more information on the program or qualification requirements, please contact Sarah Kaplan, from the office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations by calling 617-730-2329 or emailing skaplan@brooklinema.gov.