Most of the attention to the stimulus-related help provided by the federal government during the economically devastating coronavirus pandemic has rightfully focused on the stimulus checks handed out by Uncle Sam. Millions of Americans got $3,200 in total from three one-off checks. And millions of Americans are also getting as much as a few thousand dollars more this year. That’s thanks to the child tax credit payments, which continue on Monday. Meantime, not a lot of people talk about or even seem to know about something called the Emergency Broadband Benefit — a program born out of the $1.9 trillion stimulus law Congress passed earlier this year.
The recently passed infrastructure bill also increased support for the benefit. So what is it, and why should you care?
How to save money on broadband
Our Emergency Broadband Benefit Program provides discounts for households struggling to afford #broadband service during the #COVID19 pandemic. Over 7 million households have enrolled since its launch. Learn more: https://t.co/NhgLTEsMAs #DigitalDivide #BroadbandForAll
— The FCC (@FCC) November 8, 2021
According to the FCC: “The Emergency Broadband Benefit is an FCC program to help families and households struggling to afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic.” This benefit was crafted because of how important internet connectivity has become during the pandemic — thanks to, for example, widespread work-from-home and virtual school arrangements.
Recipients of this benefit can get a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service. A discount of up to $75 per month is available for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also get a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy a laptop. These funds can also be used on a desktop computer or tablet from participating providers. They’ll need to contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
Eligibility requirements include meeting just one of the following criteria:
- The household got a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year.
- There was a “substantial loss of income” in the household due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020. And the household also had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.
- The household has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline.
There are two other requirements (remember, you only have to meet just one of any of these criteria). The household meets the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband benefit provider’s low-income or COVID-19 program. And/or the household is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, in the 2019-2020, 2020-2021, or 2021-2022 school year.
Emergency Broadband Benefit application
Eligible households have three ways to apply for this benefit.
- Go to GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and to find participating providers near you. After applying, you will also need to contact a participating provider to select an eligible plan.
- Contact a participating broadband provider directly to learn more about their application process. If you’re unable to apply to a particular broadband provider directly, you’ll need to choose instead one of the other two options here. And then come back to a broadband provider to select an eligible plan.
- You can also call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application or print a copy.
You’ll need to return that application, with copies of documents showing proof of eligibility to the address that’s provided.