The article has been published with the permission of Get tech assistance and Grants for low income
Finding free Laptops and computers for low-income families often involves a bit of research at national and local charities and organizations. Public assistance programs often focus on programs that help you pay utility bills, heat, housing, or food. However, some charities are beginning to realize the need to help low-income families bridge the gap between their lives and technology.
Free Computers for Students
PCs for people
PCs for People is a national nonprofit organization that has provided computers to more than 174,000 people by recycling donated computers. To be eligible for this program, you must be 200 percent below the poverty line or enrolled in an assistance program. While you can get a computer online, you will be required to provide a photo ID and an eligibility document dated within the last six months.
computers with causes
Computers With Causes , a gift program run through donations, offers free computers to families who meet eligibility requirements. This organization offers Free tablets, computers, laptops, etc. This is a needs-based program that requires you to fill out a contact form and describe your need. While the program doesn’t list a specific income requirement, it does state that it caters to those truly in need, and gifts of computers are considered on a case-by-case basis.
The On It Foundation
Serving K-12 students and families, The On It Foundation provides donated computers to at-risk youth and families in need. To qualify for a free computer, you must be a K-12 student in a public school and on the free or reduced lunch program. To apply for the program, parents must submit a letter of application. This letter should explain your specific need and how the computer could benefit the child.
Computers 4 R Kids
Located in Southern California, Computers 4 R Kids offers low-cost refurbished computers to students and families with lower incomes. Qualifying students will receive a desktop computer package with a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and PC. To qualify for the program, you must complete an application with information about income, disabilities, children in the home, and other hardships your children may face.
In addition to offering services like vehicle giveaways and disability assistance, Con Causas offers reused and recycled computers for at-risk youth and families . This service is offered on a case-by-case basis and you must demonstrate your difficulties and needs. To apply for a free computer, you must fill out an online form.
In addition to national programs, there are also community charities and state programs that offer free computers to those below the poverty line.
Local Technology Programs
Because the need can be so great among national programs, you can also look for local programs that provide technology, like cell phones or computers, to low-income families and individuals. For example:
- Computers for Classrooms offers free computers for California residents.
- Computers for Youth offers free computers to sixth graders in low-income middle schools in New York, Atlanta, and Philadelphia .
- The LSA Laptop Loaner Program is a University of Michigan program that allows students to borrow a MacBook for their entire undergraduate program.
Start your search for a free computer by getting a list of local charities and nonprofits from your city or county government offices. Contact anyone who is tech-based to see what the qualifications are for the free computer. If you have children in school, your guidance counselor may be able to direct you to a program the school participates in that can provide free computers.
In areas without a local program, you can find state-funded programs that offer laptops to low-income students, families, and seniors through your local department of family and human services. Also, if you receive assistance from the state, you can contact your caseworker to learn about the different programs available for personal computers and laptops.
Another way to find a free computer is to contact businesses in your area that can donate their used equipment. Even if they only donate to organizations and not individuals, they will be able to give you the name of the organization(s) they are providing donated and refurbished computers to in your area.
Because free computers are expensive items, the organizations and charities you contact may require proof of hardship or income before giving you the computer. In addition to providing your name and address, you may be asked about one or more of the following on your application:
- Whether you qualify for any government assistance programs and, if so, which ones
- Explanation of any difficulties in your life
Some organizations may require an exchange of several volunteer hours or community service hours in exchange for receiving a free computer. Volunteering may be with the group that distributes the computers, while community service hours may be with a partner organization.
Free computer access
If you don’t qualify for a free computer, or there are no cheap computer programs in your area, you still have computer access options. Libraries, even in remote geographic areas, often have multiple computers available to their members. It may be necessary to register for a certain time before using one.
Community centers or schools may also offer computer access to the public during certain times. Visit your area library, community center, or school to find out if they offer public use of computers.
Other options for low-income computers
Even if you don’t qualify for (or don’t want to use) one of the programs above, we’ve found ways to save money on your devices.
Look for refurbished and rented items.
Retailers and manufacturers often sell good machines at a discount. These machines usually include warranties, but they are discounted for various reasons.
- Refurbished laptops and other machines have previously been owned, but were returned due to some sort of malfunction. They have been fixed and are working again… but they always sell for less.
- Laptops and other machines that get scratches and dents have surface damage. They may have scratches, dents, or other cosmetic blemishes, but they still work perfectly. However, they are less attractive, so they sell for less.
- Laptops and other machines leased by companies have been returned after a lease period. Companies often lease machines for two or three years and then return them for an upgrade. Refurbished business laptops are often better quality than other refurbished machines because they were used for business and not returned due to a defect.
Check the government surplus.
Government surplus stores can be a great source for used but still working computers. At our local state surplus store, we can usually pick up a decent laptop or desktop for $50 or less. In fact, this is how we acquired homeschool computers for our five children!