The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Some people have felt the impact harder than others as well. While most aspects of our lives became digital during the midst of the pandemic, some aspects have returned to normal while other aspects have remained online.
One of the major issues with nearly everything becoming digital is actually the Internet itself. We may not think about paying for our Internet access on a daily basis, but we still all have to provide some type of funds to use this technology. During the pandemic, many people lost their access to funds to help pay for their Internet usage.
If you do not have access to funds for the Internet, how are you supposed to stay connected to all the aspects of life that have moved online in the name of safety? The cycle of needing to be online, but not being able to afford to be online is a vicious one.
If you find yourself in a position of barely being able to afford Internet access or not being able to afford it at all, you may be able to breath a sigh of relief.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put together a helpful program called the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB Program) to assist Americans who are struggling to afford broadband Internet; the funding for the program is distributed by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).
By definition, the EBB is a program which offers a temporary discount on monthly broadband Internet bills for qualifying, low-income households in the United States.
Benefits from the EBB
There are multiple different benefits a qualifying household can receive from the EBB, though each qualifying household can only receive one monthly service discount and one device discount. A given household cannot double up on service discounts or device discounts.
The benefits a qualifying household can receive from the EBB can include:
- A monthly discount of up to $50 on broadband Internet services and associated broadband Internet equipment rentals;
- A monthly discount of up to $75 if the household is on Tribal Lands;
- A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet or desktop computer as long as there is a co-payment of more than $10, but less than $50.
EBB Qualifying Criteria and Application Process
The application process for the EBB begins with seeing if your household qualifies to be part of the program.
Alaska and Hawaii have different defining household incomes for the federal poverty guidelines, but for the lower-48 states, Washington D.C. and American territories, the household income requirements for being at 135% of the Federal Poverty guidelines are:
- $17,388 for a one-member household,
- $23,517 for a two-member household,
- $29,646 for a three-member household,
- $35,775 for a four-member household,
- $41,904 for a five-member household,
- $48,033 for a six-member household,
- $54,162 for a seven-member household, and
- $60,291 for an eight-member household.
A household can also qualify if any member of the household:
- Qualifies to participate in SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance or the Veterans & Survivors Pension Benefit program;
- Participates in at least one of the Tribal-specific programs such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance program, Tribal Head Start, Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF), or the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations program;
- Has suffered a substantial loss of income from job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020, and had a total 2020 household income of or less than $99,000 for single-filers or less than $198,000 for joint-filers;
- Received a federal Pell Grant during the current academic award year;
- Received Free or Reduced-Price School Lunch benefits or participated in the School Breakfast program during the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 academic year; or
- Participates in a broadband provider’s existing low-income and/or COVID-19 program and the provider has received the FCC’s approval for its eligibility verification process.
If a household member in enrolled in programs such as SNAP or is already part of another broadband provider’s low-income and/or COVID-19 relief program, the member can enroll in the EBB via those programs.
If your household does not fall into the categories of being able to enroll through another program, you can apply via the USAC’s online application, mail a completed paper application and supporting documents to the USAC, or you can contact your local broadband provider to help you apply.
Other EBB Program Information
Many broadband Internet providers work in conjunction with the FCC and the USAC to help provide users with funding from the EBB. For example, T-Mobile, AT&T and Xfinity/Comcast all openly help its customers see if they qualify for the program.
Funds from the EBB will only last until the program runs out of funds to give or until six months after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVD-19 health crisis, whichever instance occurs first.