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YWCA Works is using a loan to own program to close the digital divide

YWCA Works serves the White Center community with programs designed to improve disparities in income. Now, as a recipient of a 2022 Technology Matching Fund (TMF) grant from the City of Seattle, they will be able to address an inequity that opened up during the pandemic when so much of the world has moved online: a clear digital divide in their community.

With this City grant money, YMCA Works will address the lack of devices and training with a “loan to own” program. They will purchase 70 laptops at a discounted rate that are loaded with software to address basic computing skills, internet basics, and job search skills. They will be distributed to their clients who will be encouraged to hit training milestones as they learn to use their new laptops.

“We want to provide the laptop, but also show them how to use it,” said Mike Schwartz, director of economic empowerment. “We want to set them up for success so we’re not just giving them a machine and telling them ‘You are on your own’.”

Training will take place in the Greenbridge Learning Center where clients include refugees and immigrants, BIPOC, and low-income residents. The complex holds a Worksource location, King County Housing Authority, and a King County Library. It’s the ideal hub to offer classes and programs designed to help program participants learn how to use their laptop for the planned curriculum and learn skills that will help them in everyday life.

“Our digital literacy will touch on educational areas, but we will also help thing with other things too,” said Schwartz. “Staying in touch with friends and family, using social media, banking services, transportation, locating services like housing and medical care, and of course language services.”

They plan to have a cohort up and running in the next few weeks with a target of graduation by the end of the year.

YWCA Works is one of the latest to receive a digital equity grant to help close the digital divide. Past recipients include:

Renaissance 21 who has a mission to provide education, training, and resources to changemakers to develop their ideas into nonprofit programs. The grant money received was used to support Renaissance 21’s Star Tech Global Academy created to improve diversity and equity in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

The Senior Center of West Seattle’s program teaches individuals to use Zoom to stay connected to family members.

• Wa Na Wari serves as a center for art and belonging for the Black community in Seattle. Wa Na Wari was able to purchase audio spotlight speakers usually found in museums and art galleries.

• The Boys and Girls Clubs of King County serves kids come from underserved communities, where internet is not available at home. Their Technology Matching Fund allowed the kids to have access to reliable internet in the gym. As well as access to other equipment, such as headphones, tablets, and robotics equipment.

This year, the City was able to fund 19 non-profits for a total of $590,000. For more than 20 years, the City of Seattle’s Technology Matching Fund (TMF) grant offers up to $25,000 for qualifying non-profit organizations with digital equity projects. Projects will have to be completed within one year or less and applicants must match at least 25% of their funding request with cash, time, or other contributions.

“The organizations receiving these awards are essential for reaching people through their connections; their education, employment, and training programs; their language capabilities; and, most importantly, the trust they have earned with the communities they serve and support,” said Interim Chief Technology Officer Jim Loter.

You can learn more information about the City of Seattle’s Digital Equity Grant Program on our website. The City of Seattle digital equity grant cycle generally opens at the beginning of each year. To stay up to date on digital equity grant opportunities, sign up for the Seattle Information Technology Department’s newsletter at

The City of Seattle is participating in Digital Inclusion Week, an annual week of awareness, recognition, and celebration to promote digital equity and awareness in communities. This week, Oct. 3-7, 2022, we’ll feature a series of blog posts about the work the City of Seattle does for digital equity. You can read other blog entries from the week on our Tech Talk Blog. Be sure to follow Seattle IT on social media this week for more information about the work we do for digital equity.