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Economy

Nonprofit Brings Cheap Laptops To San Diego's Low-Income Families

This file photo shows fingers typing on a laptop keyboard, June 19, 2017.
Associated Press
This file photo shows fingers typing on a laptop keyboard, June 19, 2017.

Some fortunate San Diegans may have found a new computer under their tree this Christmas, but not all families can afford one. For them, a cheaper opportunity is still available after the holiday.

Low-income residents can purchase a used laptop or desktop computer for up to $300 from the nonprofit San Diego Futures Foundation. The organization estimates 300,000 to 500,000 San Diegans are without both a computer and internet connection, according to its own analysis, and its low-cost computer program aims to address part of that problem.

Teresa Valenzuela, the marketing coordinator for the organization based in San Diego's City Heights neighborhood, said smartphones may be popular, but a computer is necessary for tasks like writing a resume or a school paper.

"Just look at the libraries and how full they are," Valenzuela said, referring to people accessing computers at the facilities.

She said the refurbished laptops that come with a one-year warranty give students an alternative to resource centers, which can be draining after a long school day and take additional time if there's a line to use a workspace.

A personal laptop or computer also helps senior citizens maintain digital literacy and — if they have an internet connection — can keep them in touch with friends and family, staving off feelings of isolationism, she said.

The organization currently has 650 laptops and 130 desktops to sell. It re-purposes computers from San Diego County when employees receive new ones after about three to four years of use.

County Spokesman Tegan Glasheen said it has about 15,000 computers and roughly a quarter are replaced annually. Glasheen said the county required the used computers be donated to San Diego Futures Foundation or other charitable organizations in its contract with the company that provides its equipment and information technology services. Under the agreement, the company must also provide $500,000 in services to the nonprofit.

"The County wants the IT contractor involved in the community," Glasheen wrote in an email. "Distributing the computers in underserved communities helps bridge the digital divide, allows access to services we increasingly offer online."

Perspecta currently holds the seven-year $919 million contract with the county, Glasheen said.

Valenzuela said San Diego Futures Foundation is seeking additional partners who can provide used computers because the county upgrades and subsequent donations can be sporadic.

Households that earn 80 percent or less of the area median income are eligible to purchase a refurbished computer. Senior citizens, veterans, foster families, nonprofit employees and those with a disability also qualify.

The nonprofit and County Supervisor Greg Cox handed out computers to 150 foster families at a giveaway in early December.

Nonprofit Brings Cheap Laptops To San Diego's Low-Income Families
The San Diego Futures Foundation sells refurbished computers to residents that make under a certain amount each year to help address a gap in access.

Corrected:
Editor's Note: San Diego Futures Foundation is a KPBS underwriter.