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If You're Struggling to Afford Internet Service, Here's How to Get Help

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If you’re struggling to pay for internet service, the federal government still has billions of dollars to help cover home internet bills.

The FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program launched in May with close to $3.2 billion. So far, its spent around $35 million according to its online claims tracker.

Read on to learn more about the program requirements and how to apply.

What’s covered?

The Emergency Broadband Benefit program offers certain households a temporary discount of up to $50 a month on internet bills. People in tribal areas are eligible for up to $75 off their bill. The discount could apply to a household's whole bill, or you can use it to trade up to a different plan and your bill would be partly covered.

There is also a one-time $100 reimbursement for desktop computers, laptops or tablets.

Who qualifies?

Any household with income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines is eligible.

For a family of two, you’d qualify if you make $23,517 a year or less. For a family of four, the cut off is $35,775 dollars.

If you make more than that, you may qualify another way.

If a least one person in your home received a federal Pell grant this year, free or reduced-price school lunch in the last two school years, used certain assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid or Lifeline, you may qualify.

Or, if you suffered an income drop because of a lost job or furlough since February 29, 2020 and your income is at or below $99,000 for single filers, or $198,000 for joint filers, you may also qualify for the program.

Check this site to see all the eligibility requirements to find out if you qualify.

How to apply

You can apply online here.

Or, if you already have internet service, you can contact your current broadband provider to see if they are participating in the program.

For those who can’t get online, 833-511-0311 and the FCC will mail you an application.

This week, the website said the program was experiencing a high volume. Paloma Perez with the FCC said weekends are often a better time to call.

“Because of the first few weeks we saw so much interest, we've staffed up, we've increased our capacity and staff to make sure that hopefully, the hold times are a lot shorter than what you've experienced. But, also just also a tip we found is that the weekend seemed to be a little bit lower volume,” Perez said.

When does the program end?

Once enrolled, customers keep the discount until six months after the federal government says the COVID-19 emergency is over. Or, until funding for the program runs out - whichever comes first.

“The sooner you apply, the sooner you can get a benefit and the longer you'll have the support since it is a temporary program,” said Perez.

Consumers can get the discount even if they owe a phone or cable company money.

The $3.2 billion program is part of the $900 billion December pandemic-relief package. The federal government increased spending on broadband to bridge the digital divide at a time when work, school and healthcare services continued to move online during the pandemic.

The FCC is also taking applications for $7.2 billion program for schools and libraries to connect students in their homes.

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