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Morning Briefing: Bridging LA Students' Digital Divide

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Yesterday, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced painful cuts for L.A. city workers, public programs and departments. The plans are likely a harbinger of more to come, but there’s some good news among the coronavirus crisis’ initial economic fallout: as schools switch to remote learning, California is bridging the vast digital divide between students of varying means — a problem that existed long before the pandemic.

Kyle Stokes reports that in some low-income L.A. neighborhoods, as many as half of households with school-age children don’t have broadband internet or access to a computer. He writes:

“Most teachers have stories — even from before the pandemic — about students camping out in the parking lots of Starbucks or McDonald's or public libraries, trying to access the Wi-Fi to complete and submit assignments on their phones.”

To address the problem, California officials announced that 70,000 students will get free laptops and tablets, and Google will roll out 100,000 free hotspots. That comes on the heels of LAUSD’s purchasing enough laptops to send home with every child.

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“There are many valid concerns that have driven LAUSD away from this idea in the past,” says Stokes, “but now that the district has the laptops, that will help narrow the digital divide for at least as long as these newly-purchased computers last.”

Here’s hoping the effort continues into the future.

Coming Up Today, April 21

Everyone suddenly wants to grow a coronavirus victory garden. Hadley Meares looks at how Angelenos did that during WWII.

Emily Elena Dugdale reports on the L.A. County Superior Court’s announcement that it will go to video arraignments in 32 courtrooms across 17 courthouses.

NOTE: An earlier version of this briefing incorrectly said the video arraignments were rolling out to all courtrooms.

Alyssa Jeong Perry reports on the impact of coronavirus on immigrants, from reduced remittances to planning for sending remains home.

Carla Javier will have takeaways from our conversations with top LAUSD officials on our newsroom’s public affairs show AirTalk, which airs on 89.3 KPCC, about how distance learning is going so far.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

L.A., California, The World: There are just under 14,000 coronavirus cases in L.A. County. There are almost 32,000 cases in California, and over 2.4 million worldwide. A new study indicates that COVID-19 is much more widespread in L.A. than previously thought, but also less deadly.

L.A.’s Fiscal Emergency: Mayor Eric Garcetti has released his proposed budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which reflects the economic ravaging brought about by COVID-19. Garcetti declared a state of fiscal emergency and plans to furlough all civilian employees for 26 days and drastically reduce some programs and departments. Vision Zero, the street safety initiative, will be cut 5%. Budget cuts will also affect L.A. cultural activities like the L.A. Zoo, the El Pueblo de Los Angeles historical monument and Barnsdall Art Park.

Testing And Quarantines: A study that tested 863 adults for antibodies to COVID-19 suggests it's infected more people in L.A. County than official numbers show. Nearly one out of every eight inmates in L.A. County jails is quarantined, and the first inmate at a state prison has died of COVID-19 complications. Sean Penn’s nonprofit organization is working to increase coronavirus testing in and around L.A.

The Dramatic Digital Divide: L.A. County’s digital divide has become stark as schools have moved to remote learning. To bridge the gap, approximately 70,000 California students will receive free laptops and tablets, and Google will roll out 100,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots.

A Business Is A Business, No Matter How… Large?: Only 3% of California’s 3.7 million small businesses received help from the Paycheck Protection Program. Meanwhile, Shake Shack, the New York-based burger chain, received $10 million of aid from the program.

Money In The Time Of…: LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner pleaded with state and federal lawmakers for help picking up the unpaid bills, but Sacramento is grappling with a budget crisis of its own. L.A. leaders are identifying holes in the safety net for immigrants without legal status, and creating relief funds. The city’s spending on homelessness will remain steady, despite the city's financial distress. The Walt Disney Co. has expanded its job cuts to nearly half its workforce.

Roll Me Up And Smoke Me (During Quarantine): Since stay-at-home orders were issued, you may have been feeling an undeniable urge to homestead. In case you want to DIY some of your vices as well on this hallowed 4/20, we've got you – why not grow your own weed? Plus, here’s your 4/20 virtual event guide.

Your Moment Of Zen

This mural, located on The Doheny Wall in West Hollywood, is part of artist Corrie Mattie’s La Hope Dealer series.

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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