The Federal Communications Commission, under the Biden Administration, recently introduced the Emergency Broadband Benefit program for families who meet certain income criteria. Through the program, families may receive up to $50 per month toward their broadband service and associated equipment rentals. Households on qualifying tribal lands may receive as much as $75 per month toward broadband costs. Families can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet or desktop computer, as long as the buyer pays more than $10 but less than $50 toward the device, according to the FCC.
The funds are available thanks to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which was signed into law in late December 2020. The FCC established guidelines and rules for the program in February 2021. Families can apply for the funding beginning May 12, 2021, the FCC reports.
Do You Qualify for the Credit?
The federal government will evaluate a variety of criteria to determine eligibility, but families need only meet one of the criteria to qualify for the program. Any family receiving SNAP, Medicaid or Lifeline can qualify. Any family with children receiving benefits in the free or reduced-price school lunch or school breakfast program for the 2019 – 2020 or current school year can qualify. Households with a student who received a Pell Grant in the current award year qualify.
Additionally, any household with income levels at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, which would be $26,500 for a family of four in 2021, can receive assistance. Also, if you or your household experienced a “substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers,” the FCC says you would qualify for the program.
Finally, if you meet eligible criteria for a telecommunications’ providers current low-income or COVID-19 program, you can now get assistance through the federal government program. A number of broadband internet providers are participating in the program. You can find one in your area by visiting FCC.gov/emergency-broadband-benefit-providers.
How to Apply
After checking the eligibility guidelines to see if you qualify and then finding a participating provider in your area, you can apply online or by printing out an application and mailing it to Emergency Broadband Support Center / P.O. Box 7081 / London, KY 40742. You can also check with your broadband service provider for assistance with the applications.
If you are already a member of the FCC Lifeline program, your broadband provider can help you apply the EBB credits to your Lifeline program. You also have the option of applying the benefits to a different broadband service, according to the website GetEmergencyBroadband.org, a resource for the program that is not affiliated with the FCC.
What You Should Know About the Program
Applicants should be aware that the benefit is available for only one monthly service discount and one, one-time device credit per household, says the FCC. The program will end when funding runs out or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, you will have to opt-in to continue to receive services and will pay the provider’s general monthly rate, says GetEmergencyBroadband.org.
It always pays to try to negotiate broadband internet pricing with your provider, however, as you could get substantial discounts just by asking for a better deal.
The History of Broadband Funding
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the original government stimulus act for the pandemic introduced under now-former President Donald Trump, included provisions for broadband internet access, with $7 billion allocated to building out broadband infrastructure and providing financial help to families in need, The New York Times reported.
The original act called for up to $50 per month to help lower income families pay for broadband internet access, according to the New York Times. In the midst of the pandemic, high-speed internet became a necessity for children attending school virtually, remote workers and anyone who wished to stay better connected with family and friends.
As workplaces and schools begin to open up again, the broadband internet benefit will continue to help lower income families recover from the pandemic and stay connected in an increasingly digital world.
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