Digital Opportunity Grants

Tennessee's Vision for Digital Opportunity 

Ensuring that all Tennesseans have access to affordable and reliable internet service, dependable technology, and the digital literacy skills necessary to empower individuals to fully access all digital opportunities. 

Please see the DSEW guidebook  for complete program information

Please join us for Round Two of the Digital Skills, Education, and Workforce (DSEW) Grant Informational Webinar on Wednesday, June 12, from 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM (CDT). This webinar will provide grant applicants with a comprehensive overview of the program, covering eligibility requirements, the application and selection processes, and what to expect after grants are awarded. Please register for the webinar at the following link:

Informational Webinar: June 12, 2024, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM - Register Here

The TNECD team will also be offering two optional office hour sessions, where potential DSEW applicants can receive real-time guidance from grant program experts. This session will cover a variety of topics, including eligible areas, the application process, and the selection procedure.

Office Hours: July 10, 2024, 1:30 – 2:30 PM - Register Here

Office Hours: July 17, 2024, 1:30 – 2:30 PM - Register Here

Application Window: June 17 - August 14, 2024

Program Description

Overview of the Grant Program

The Digital Skills, Education, and Workforce Development (DSEW) grants program, funded by the American Rescue Plan (ARPA), will distribute $17 million across digital skills, education, and workforce development, including broadband infrastructure workforce development and higher education/adult educational entities.

The digital skills and education program will invest in evidence-based initiatives that focus on improving introductory-level and advanced digital skills. The goal of this program is to support skilling programs and access to advanced digital tools so that individuals can develop the technical proficiency required to navigate complex digital environments, participate in the digital economy, and drive innovation.

The workforce development program will also invest in evidence-based initiatives that train broadband infrastructure professionals or digitally enabled professionals. The goal of the broadband infrastructures professionals is to develop a well-trained and diverse telecommunications workforce needed to deploy, manage, and maintain broadband infrastructure. The goal of the digitally-enabled professionals is to support digital upskilling across a wide variety of industries, including-but not limited to-technology, music and entertainment, finance, real estate, health care, education, and hospitality.

Award Amount

The maximum allowable grant is $1 million. At least $5 million of the available funding will be allocated to adult educational entities or higher education institutions. This process will be competitive. The grant will cover up to 90% of eligible project expenses, with a required 10% hard match (cash) by the grantee. In-kind contributions (e.g., services provided by partnering community anchor institutions, donated office or meeting space) will not be considered.

Application limits

There is no limit to the number of submissions per applicant; however, no more than two grants will be awarded per applicant. Each application can reflect only 1 program.

Period of Performance

All contracts with grantees must be in effect by June 30, 2024, and funds must be expended by December 31, 2026.

Eligibility Requirements

Target Population

Please see the DSEW Guidebook for full information regarding Target Populations

Per ARPA SLFRF specifications, the populations served directly by the grantee in counties with an AMI above $65,880 must fall into one of the following categories:

  • Households at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a default household size of 3 ($65,880)
  • Households that experienced unemployment or increased food or housing insecurity
  • Households that qualify for the Children's Health Insurance Program, Childcare Subsidies through the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) Program, or Medicaid
  • Households residing in a Qualified Census Tracts: Census Tracts, blocks, or zip codes that meet the designation of "impacted"/"disproportionately impacted" designation or are considered Qualified Census Tracts

If one of these categories do not apply to the project, the applicant will be responsible for verifying that the individual end users of the proposed project satisfy the state and federal guidance through eligibility verification.

For more information, please reference the ARPA SLFRF Final Rule (pages 12, 17 to 20) or the 2023 Interim Final Rule (pages 164 to 165).

Eligible Program Activities and Services

TNECD will examine the educational design of the program activities and services proposed to determine whether participants can exit the programs with the market­ relevant skills, experience, abilities, and qualifications necessary to further their personal and professional goals in digital environments. For workforce development purposes, an effective educational design would promote learning within the context of the work and the community, provide professional development of the individual with top-down support, and nurture each learner's agency.

Please note that proposed workforce development programs must offer job placements or other services that prevent the underemployment of program participants.

Eligible Educational Activities

  • Adult education
  • Intermediate and/or specialized digital skills training in K-12 schools
  • Workplace education, which refers to adult education and literacy activities offered by an eligible provider; collaboration with an employer or employee organization at a workplace or an off-site location is required.
  • Micro-learning
  • Apprenticeship program
  • Industry-relevant credentialing programs
  • Digital navigators
  • Other educational activities
  • Providing training to trainers/educators on eligible activities

Ineligible Programs

  • Conducting of training and apprenticeship programs by internet service providers (ISPs)
  • Conducting adoption promotion activities (e.g., adoption campaign, low-cost plans, digital inclusion initiatives)
  • Programs that conduct awareness and outreach campaigns and activities of digital inclusion programming and resources, such as the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), but do not provide accompanying skilling services (e.g., marketing and awareness campaigns where skilling services are not provided)
  • Digital opportunity coalitions/taskforces
  • K-12 school system one-to-one computer programs
  • Direct technical troubleshooting or repair services for broken devices

Applicant Qualification

Eligible Grant Applicants

  • A local educational agency (e.g., community college, such as a vocational school)
  • A community-based or faith-based organization
  • A volunteer literacy organization
  • An institution of higher education
  • A public or private nonprofit agency
  • A library
  • A public housing authority
  • A nonprofit institution (that does not fit the above)
  • A small business (1-10 employees)
  • A consortium or coalition of the agencies, organizations, institutions, libraries, or entity described above
  • A partnership between an employer and an entity above

Ineligible Grant Applicants

  • Internet service providers
  • Government entities (e.g., local government, corrections departments, commissions)
  • "Pass-through" entities, or entities seeking to receive TNECD grant funding to distribute to other organizations through their own grant programs

Match Requirements

The grant will cover up to 90% of eligible project expenses, with a required 10% match by the Grantee.

Round Two

Guidebook

Round 2 Application Webinar Materials

 

Round One

Guidebook

 

Round 1 Compliance Webinar

 

Round 1 Application Webinar Materials

 

Round 1 Program FAQs

Please see the BRC guidebook for complete program information

Please join the TNECD team for an optional office hours session, where potential BRC applicants can receive real-time guidance from grant program experts. This session will cover a variety of topics, including eligible projects and the application process.

Office Hours: June 11, 2024, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM - Register Here

Overview of the Grant Program

As part of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017 (TBAA), the State of Tennessee established the Broadband Ready Communities Program to foster county engagement in securing broadband infrastructure and access to their communities. Now expanded, the Broadband Ready Communities 2.0 Grant Program's goal is to equip constituents and communities with community-based digital adoption resources. The Broadband Ready Communities Grant Program is funded by a portion of the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund – American Rescue Plan (TEBF-ARP)

Key Dates 

  • May 15, 2024 - Application Open
  • June 28, 2024 - Application Close
  • September 2024 - Award Announcements

*All dates subject to change 

Award Amount

The maximum grant request allowable under the Broadband Ready Communities Program is $100,000.
Important: This is a non-competitive grant opportunity; hence, submitted proposals will not undergo a competitive scoring process. There is no match requirement. TNECD and the Development Districts of Tennessee will review all applications and other relevant documents and records. Projects that meet the completeness review and are approved by the review team will be presented to TNECD’s Grant Committee, comprising the commissioner, deputy commissioners, assistant commissioners, and others designated by the commissioner that approves all TNECD grants.

Period of Performance

All contracts with grantees must be in effect by November 30, 2024. Funds must be expended by December 31, 2026.

Eligible Applicants

Any county or local government that has a Broadband Ready designation that did not receive funding in BRC Round 1. In Round 2, the local government does not require a letter of support from the county government.

Counties or local governments without a Broadband Ready designation must submit the executed ordinance with their application. A sample ordinance is available on the website: TNECD Broadband Communities page.

Important: Priority will be given to counties that did not apply in Round 1.

Eligible Communities

Automatically Eligible Communities: Any project that is in counties with a Median Family Income at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a default household size of 3 ($65,880).

This is all counties except: Cheatham, Davidson, Fayette, Knox, Loudon, Maury, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Tipton, Williamson, or Wilson. Note: Counties with AMls above $65,880 are still eligible to apply if they show that they are serving a target population (defined in the next section).


Eligible Target Populations

If the project is located in Cheatham, Davidson, Fayette, Knox, Loudon, Maury, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Tipton, Williamson, or Wilson Counties, the project must serve one of the following eligible populations:

  • Providing Services in a Qualified Census Tracts
  • Low-or-moderate income households or communities
  • Households that experienced unemployment
  • Households that experienced increased food or housing insecurity
  • Households that qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Households that qualify for Childcare Subsidies through the Child Care

Verification of eligible population: As part of the application process, applicants will be required to provide verification of the end beneficiary that aligns with the selected target population. By choosing a specific population, applicants are committing to collect verification. Sampling the population and collecting data over given periods of time is acceptable.

Examples of BRC Projects

  • A County Government project aims to enhance digital literacy for senior citizens: The county recognizes a unique gap in its community: a significant portion of the population is over the age of 65. The project aims to address this by equipping community spaces with adaptive technology for seniors and providing digital training focused on internet safety.
  • Through collaboration with nonprofit organizations, the County Government expedites enrollment in low-cost internet plans by: Training nonprofits and partners to conduct in-person outreach on affordable internet options, utilizing nonprofits' consistent community engagement to reach residents, distributes devices and providing digital skills training to underserved communities through nonprofit partners.
  • Partnering with school districts, the County Government supports free or low-cost devise distribution: Recognizing the unique gap where a majority of school children lack access to devices at home, the County Government procures updated equipment to be sent home and partners with a local community college to provide free after-school digital skilling programs for students.

 

Round Two

Program Guidebook

Application Webinar Materials

Office Hours

 

Round One

Program Guidebook

 

Compliance Webinar Materials

 

Webinar Materials

 

Program FAQs

Please see the CCF 2.0 guidebook for complete program information

Please join the TNECD team for an optional office hours session, where potential CCF applicants can receive real-time guidance from grant program experts. This session will cover a variety of topics, including eligible areas, the application process, and the selection procedure.

Office Hours: June 13, 2024, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM - Register Here

Program Description

Overview of the Grant Program

The Connected Communities Facilities 2.0 Grant Program’s goal is to make digital access easier by building and rehabbing spaces where communities can come together and connect digitally. The goal is to create places where people can access digital resources for work, health, and education in one location. The Connected Communities Facilities Grant Program is funded by the ARPA Capital Project Fund (CPF).

Key Dates

*Subject to change

  • May 15, 2024 - Application Open
  • July 12, 2024 - Application Close
  • September 2024 - Award Announcements 

Federal Award Information

Award Amount

The maximum grant request allowable for the Connected Community Facilities Grant Program is $2 million.

Match Amount

The grant will cover up to 90% of eligible project expenses, with a required 10% match by the grantee. 

Period of Performance

All contracts with grantees must be in effect by November 30, 2024. Funds must be expended by December 30, 2026. 

 

Eligible Applicants

  • County Government
  • Local Government
  • Health Department
  • K-12 School
  • Library
  • Public Safety Unit of Government
  • Nonprofit partnering with any of the above governments to address the digital divide *must demonstrate strong local government support for application. Read more in guidebook. 

Eligible Communities

Automatically Eligible Communities: Any project that is in counties with a Median Family Income at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a default household size of 3 ($65,880).

This is all counties except: Cheatham, Davidson, Fayette, Knox, Loudon, Maury, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Tipton, Williamson, or Wilson. Note: Counties with AMls above $65,880 are still eligible to apply if they show that they are serving a target population (defined in the next section).

Priority Eligible Communities: Following Governor Bill Lee's Executive Order 1, applicants from an "at-risk" or "distressed" county, as designated by the Appalachian Regional Commission, will receive 5 additional points in their scoring. In fiscal year 2024, Tennessee's "at-risk" and "distressed" counties were:

  • At-Risk (27): Benton, Campbell, Carroll, Carter, Claiborne, Decatur, Fentress, Greene, Grundy, Hawkins, Haywood, Houston, Jackson, Johnson, Lauderdale, Lewis, Macon, McNairy, Meigs, Morgan, Pickett, Rhea, Sequatchie, Unicoi, Van Buren, Warren, Wayne
  • Distressed (8): Bledsoe, Clay, Cocke, Hancock, Hardeman, Perry, Scott, Lake

Additionally, projects in a Qualified Census Tract (QCT) will receive 5 additional points in their scoring. Applicants may earn up to 5 points for projects in an At Risk/Distressed County or QTC, but not for both categories simultaneously.

Eligible Target Populations

If the project is located in Cheatham, Davidson, Fayette, Knox, Loudon, Maury, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Tipton, Williamson, or Wilson Counties, the project must serve one of the following eligible populations:

  • Providing Services in a Qualified Census Tracts
  • Low-or-moderate income households or communities
  • Households that experienced unemployment
  • Households that experienced increased food or housing insecurity
  • Households that qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Households that qualify for Childcare Subsidies through the Child Care

Verification of eligible population: As part of the application process, applicants will be required to provide verification of the end beneficiary that aligns with the selected target population. By choosing a specific population, applicants are committing to collect verification. Sampling the population and collecting data over given periods of time is acceptable.

 

Examples of CCF Projects

Based on the information provided, here are examples of ideal projects for the Capital Projects Fund (CPF):

  • Digital Learning Hub: A partnership between a local government and a private sector company could develop a digital learning hub. This facility would provide high-speed internet, computers, and telehealth equipment, serving as a digital learning center, workforce training center, and telehealth clinic. The private sector partner could contribute expertise in technology and digital literacy training, while the local government ensures accessibility and community engagement.
  • Maker Space: A collaboration between a local government and a private sector innovation company could establish a maker space. This space would include a flexible space for workforce development, a computer lab for education, and a telehealth room for healthcare services.
  • Community Wellness Center: A partnership between a local government and a healthcare provider could create a community wellness center. This center would combine a fitness center, a library, and a telehealth suite.
  • Community Center: A partnership between a local government and a cultural organization could establish a cultural and community center. This center would include a cultural arts space, a library, a workforce development center, and a telehealth suite. The private sector partner could contribute to the cultural arts space and workforce development center, ensuring a vibrant cultural scene and effective workforce training, while the local government could manage the library and telehealth services.

Round Two

Program Guidebook

Application Webinar Materials

Application Office Hours

 

Round One

Program Guidebook 

Application Webinar Materials

Compliance Webinar Materials - Round 1 Finalists

Program FAQs

Technology Opportunities for the Public (TOP) Grants

Overview

The Training Opportunities for the Public (TOP) Grant is available for public libraries to be able to provide services for their communities. Grant funds are available for the following:

  • Training
  • Hotpots
  • Solar Charging Tables
  • Internal Connections

Please note: All libraries participating in this grant must provide digital literacy training to the public. Applicants that do not request funds for training will be required to document at least 4 public digital literacy classes held during the grant period.


Who Can Apply?

Public Libraries in the State of Tennessee.

 

More Information

Please contact Jennifer Cowan-Henderson. Jennifer.Cowan-Henderson@tn.gov