Emergency Broadband Benefit Offered
During shutdowns required to fight the COVID-19 epidemic, having an Internet connection was necessary to stay connected with family and friends, fending off loneliness and isolation for many older adults. There were video chats, telehealth visits, YouTube prayer sessions, online classes are examples. Once people become familiar with the Internet, the whole world opens up. A device as simple as an electronic reader like Kindle and Internet access can put an entire library at a person’s fingertips.
To help seniors afford Internet service, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit program (EBB) in May. It offers up to $50 a month to offset broadband costs for low income people like those on Medicare or receiving SSI or SNAP.
EBB is making $3.2 billion available for people with low incomes or whose income declined substantially during the coronavirus pandemic. The program was part of the third stimulus bill and will connect eligible households to jobs, critical healthcare services, virtual classrooms.
About the Emergency Broadband Benefit
The EBB will provide a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
The EBB is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.
Who Is Eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program?
A household is eligible if a member of the household meets one of the criteria below:
• Has an income that is at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid or Lifeline. The income limit increases with the number of people living in the same household. Others who have experienced a substantial loss of income since the pandemic started in 2020 may also qualify. Income limits are $17,388 for one person; $23,517, two people; and $29,646, three people.
• Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since Feb. 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
• Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
How to Apply
Eligible households must both apply for the program and contact a participating provider to select a service plan. There are three ways for eligible households to apply:
• Contact a participating broadband provider directly to learn about their application process.
• Go to GetEmergencyBroadband. org to apply online and to find participating providers near you. After you apply, you will have to contact a participating provider to select an eligible plan.
• Call (833) 511-0311 for a mail-in application or print a copy, and return it along with copies of documents showing proof of eligibility to: Emergency Broadband Support Center P.O. Box 7081 London, KY 40742 After you received a notice that you have qualified for the program, households must contact a participating provider to select an EBB eligible service plan.
By June 27, a month and a half into the program, more than 3 million households had enrolled, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
About 14.5 million Americans— and 22 percent of those 65 and older—don’t have access to a high-speed internet connection, the FCC estimates.
Other estimates place that at 42 million people. The program will continue until the money runs out.
—from the Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services