There's new federal relief available to help cover internet bills for low-income or qualifying households. But the relief money is finite, and in order to receive it, you need to apply or enroll before the dollars run out.
Emergency Broadcast Benefit Program
On May 12, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that consumers could begin applying for and enrolling in the Emergency Broadcast Benefit (EBB) Program.
The program offers:
- A discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households
- A discount of up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands
- Eligible households can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating companies if the household contributes more than $10 and less than $50 towards the purchase price.
The FCC said this program aims to "to help families and households struggling to afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic" in hopes of helping connect those families to things like jobs, critical healthcare services, and virtual classrooms.
Demand is already high for this new program. The FCC announced on May 20 that more than 1 million households enrolled in the first week of the program's existence.
“The high demand we’ve seen for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program demonstrates what many of us already knew to be true – too many families are struggling to get online, even in 2021," said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
The FCC states that you qualify if you are in a household with an annual income of 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines.
In the contiguous United States (all U.S. except Alaska and Hawaii) your household income would need to be at or below the following levels to qualify:
- $17,388 for a 1-person household
- $23,517 for a 2-person household
- $29,646 for a 3-person household
- $35,775 for a 4-person household
- $41,904 for a 5-person household
Even if your income is more than those amounts, you could still qualify for the program if any member of our household:
- Got a Federal Pell Grant for the current award year
- Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced price school lunches program
- Participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline
- Experienced a substantial loss in income due to job loss or furlough since February 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers
- Meets the broadcast providers' eligibility criteria for existing low income or COVID-19 programs
The FCC told NBC Bay Area that a household only needs to meet one of the eligibility criteria to qualify for the EBB program.
How to Apply
You may also be able to apply through your broadband provider, you can contact your provider and ask if they are participating in the EBB program or you can search for a participating company near you. More than 900 broadband providers have agreed to take part in this program, the FCC says.
Once your application has been approved, you can chose a company that offers the EBB Program and enroll in the service.
Grassroots group MediaJustice announced on May 20 the launch of a website EBBhelp.org to assist potential applicants.
Is Statewide Cost of Living Factored in?
The FCC tells NBC Bay Area that statewide cost of living is not factored into the income-based eligibility for this program. So the 135% of the federal poverty guidelines requirement is true regardless of what state you live in. However, the FCC noted that other assistance programs, which are based on cost of living, may qualify individuals for the EBB Program.
To get these federal dollars, you have to take initiative.
FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel noted, “People won’t receive the discount if they don’t sign up.”