There’s been an extensive amount of reporting and proverbial ink spilled over the past year and a half about stimulus payments, as a key emergency tool the federal government immediately relied on to help people affected by the coronavirus pandemic. That’s because of the nature and size of the checks themselves. Three waves of payments so far, including two approved last year under President Trump and a third earlier this year under President Biden. For $1,200, $600, and $1,400, in that order, and collectively totaling tens of billions of dollars transferred from the government directly to American taxpayers.
But the government has also done a lot more along these lines outside of those three checks themselves. From the ongoing child tax credit payments, rolling out on a monthly basis, to other little-known benefits. Like one that’s helping millions of Americans pay for internet service.
Stimulus payments aren’t the only direct benefit
In the COVID-19 relief package that Congress passed back in December, there was a benefit tucked inside it that didn’t get much attention (compared to things like stimulus checks). It’s a program that makes money available for Americans to get a monthly discount on the cost of internet service. As well as offering one-time savings on the cost of a new computer.
Regarding the cost of internet service, that’s part of an FCC effort to help people keep from losing access to a vital resource during the pandemic. To date, more than 5 million US households have enrolled in this program since it was launched on May 12. Benefits that participants can get include:
- Up to $50 a month off the cost of broadband service, and any related equipment rental.
- A discount of up to $75/month on broadband service for homes on qualifying tribal lands.
- And a one-time discount of up to $100 on a laptop, tablet or PC.
Other details to know
According to the FCC, households can qualify in several ways for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. It’s available, for example, to households that are eligible for a broadband provider’s existing COVID relief program. As well as to those who got a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year, and to low-income households who suffered a major income loss during the pandemic.
The application form is available online, at GetEmergencyBroadband.org. You can qualify if you meet one of these criteria:
- The loss of income, noted above. There’s also an income threshold — your household income last year should be at or below $99,000 for single tax filers and $198,000 for joint filers.
- You were eligible for a free or reduced-price school breakfast or lunch, during either the prior or current school year.
- Your income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty line for a family of your size. Or you get assistance through programs like SNAP “food stamps” or Medicaid.
- You’re eligible for a participating broadband provider’s low-income or COVID programs.