Millions of Americans can now apply for federal assistance to help pay their monthly internet bill as part of a $3.2 billion pandemic relief program, according to the Associated Press. The Emergency Broadband Benefit was part of the $900 billion pandemic relief package passed in December which included money for expansion of broadband service and assistance in keeping families connected to the internet.
Qualified applicants can receive up to $50 a month to help pay for their internet service and up to $75 a month if they live on Tribal lands. There is also a one-time credit of up to $100 toward the purchase of a laptop, tablet or desktop computer. A co-pay between $10-$50 is also required for the purchase of a device.
There are several ways to qualify for the program including by already participating in other government programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income and more. You may also qualify if you experienced substantial loss of income since Feb. 29, 2020 “with a total household income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers,” according to a statement on the program website.
To see the full list of how to qualify and to determine if your household is eligible, visit the program website.
It is unknown how long the money will be available, but it is expected to be there for several months, despite being available to tens of millions of customers. The Federal Communications Commission is administering the program, but did not say how many people are eligible.
“The program will end when the fund runs out of money, or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner,” reads a portion of the website.
The program allows those who already owe money to their providers to collect the benefit regardless if they are past due or not. In the past, some providers have offered assistance programs to low-income homes, but are typically available on the condition that the bill is up-to-date.
The AP reports more than 800 cellphone and internet providers are participating in the program. Among the more well known providers involved are AT&T, Charter, Comcast, T-Mobile and Verizon.
The money can be used to pay for a current plan or to upgrade to a better plan with the benefit helping to reduce the cost of the new monthly bill.
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