YOUNGSTOWN – Patrick Kerrigan, executive director of the nonprofit Oakhill Collaborative, recently spoke to Mahoning County commissioners about the work the organization is planning with the $ 110,000 in US bailout funds that commissioners have given him. allocated in July.
Kerrigan, a former municipal court judge, said the funds would be used to increase awareness and digital skills among residents of Mahoning County.
“There are a lot of ways we do this,” he said. Ninety-eight percent of Youngstown’s homes have high-speed internet access, but not everyone knows how to use it, he said.
“So many things – school, telehealth, job interviews, government benefits – are all easier to do if you know how to use your phone, your computer. Most of us in this room are not as good as we would like, ”he said.
“Certainly the people – often poor people – don’t have the training or the experience, so our mission at the Oakhill Collaborative is to help in all of these ways,” he said. “We are partnering with (the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments) to help get broadband in the greater region.”
One of the programs the collaboration participates in is a program in which people with qualifying incomes can save $ 50 per month on the cost of the Internet.
“It’s a huge advantage,” he said. “If you’re 135% federal poverty guidelines or if you’re receiving SNAP benefits or anyone in the house is entitled to discounted breakfasts.” Also eligible are individuals who have received or are receiving a Federal Pell Grant.
“So if you have Internet for $ 20, a cheap plan, it’s free. If you have a plan at $ 69, which is 100 megabytes per second, which is very fast, it’s $ 19 per month. “
He said the discount is good while the pandemic is being offered as part of the federal government’s pandemic relief program. It can be used with any Internet Service Provider by any qualifying Youngstown or Mahoning County resident.
The number to call is 330-406-0721. The Oakhill Collaborative will help residents register for the service.
“We see ourselves as navigators. Just as it is difficult for you to figure out how to operate your Internet, we can help you with that, ”Kerrigan said. “Just on this program, we have to work with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and your ISP,” he said.
“We do it for you. Free, ”he said.
The Oakhill Collaborative also gives computer courses.
“We’re not trying to teach people to be experts. We teach you how to access the Internet, how to be comfortable, ”he said. “Last week we just gave a course on Bible applications (computer programs). We welcome people like that, ”he said.
“Maybe they’ll download recipes. Next week we will have a telehealth course, ”he said. “This is what this money will be used for, it is to expand our program. We will do it full time. Another class will be social media for small businesses.
The collaborative has a laboratory of 15 computers. “We have a digital recording studio. Everything is free, ”he said. “You can come in and
doing podcasts and that sort of thing, ”he said.