State lawmakers to introduce legislation to fund Wi-Fi for residents in state group homes


ALBANY – Led by State Senator James Skoufis (D, Cornwall), a group of lawmakers will introduce legislation for the state to fund Wi-Fi access for all people living in state-operated group homes and living facilities.

Skoufis said it would cost under $1 million per year to fund the program. He has unsuccessfully asked the state’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities to provide the money.

“To not provide internet to be able to talk with on Facetime or Zoom with loved ones. Not to be able to potentially provide the resources necessary for those who are in school to be able to get an education. To not provide internet for telemedicine. A lot of these residents can’t get to a doctor’s office,” he said.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D, Forestburgh), chairwoman of the Committee on Mental Health, said it is “absurd” that the state is not providing free Wi-Fi for their residents. “Some families haven’t seen their loved ones in nearly a year and internet may be their only way of connecting.”

“In a COVID world, internet access is the lifeline for people with disabilities to be part of the resident of the community,” said Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti (D, Tarrytown), chairman of the Committee on Disabilities.

Doug Hovey, president and CEO of Independent living, Inc., headquartered in Newburgh, said he “can’t think of anything more important than being able to communicate with our families and loved ones especially during the pandemic.