Government approves emergency $50 internet subsidy for low-income families

The federal government approved an emergency program this week to help lower-income families spend more money on high-speed Internet access and ultimately create a work and school lifeline for many Americans in the pandemic.
"This is a program that will help those at risk of digital separation," said Jessica Rosenworcel, vice chairwoman of the FCC, in a press release. “It will help those in car parking spaces get a Wi-Fi signal to go to work online. It will help those who linger outside the library with a laptop just to get a radio signal for distance learning. It will help those who are worried about paying a broadband bill or paying rent or buying groceries. "
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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the $ 3.2 billion broadband emergency program Lifeline, which offers a monthly benefit of up to $ 50 for broadband services and up to $ 75 per month for residents of the tribal area. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $ 100 on a computer or tablet.
The pandemic has exacerbated the digital divide. Reliable internet is a necessity for students studying remotely and adults who sign up for remote work or job hunting - routine activities they usually do at the same time during the week.
The Federal Communications Commission approved the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a $ 3.2 billion federal initiative to bridge the digital divide by subsidizing phone and Internet services and hardware for low-income families. (Photo: Getty)
Last year, advocates called for more affordable service for low-income families, noting that their children could fall further behind in school, among other things. Angela Siefer, executive director of the not-for-profit National Digital Inclusion Alliance, described the benefit as "an incredible first step" in government recognition of the divide.
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"Digital access and digital use is an instrument that, if used successfully by more of us, together strengthens our economy, health, education, social and civic participation," Siefer told Yahoo Money.
Who will qualify?
The program is designed to support American households living on or below the poverty line. The following qualify:
Households participating in an existing low-income or pandemic aid program offered by a broadband provider
Lifeline subscribers, including those using Medicaid or accepting the benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),
Families with children who receive a free and discounted lunch or school breakfast,
Pell Grant Recipient; and those who have lost their jobs in the past year and whose income has decreased,
Workers who have lost their jobs and whose income has decreased in the past year.
Applications can be submitted electronically or by post.
How much is the discount?
The previous monthly discount was $ 9.25, and the new emergency benefit offers up to $ 50 per month for broadband services and up to $ 75 per month for residents of the tribal area. There is also a one-time discount of up to $ 100 on a computer or tablet for eligible households.
How quickly will subsidies be introduced?
The FCC estimates that qualified households could experience relief within the next two months. Rosenworcel added that "work is already in progress" to "get the program up and running".
"I expect it will be open to eligible households for the next 60 days when providers sign up and program systems are put in place," she said.
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Of all the obstacles Americans have faced in the last year, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said connectivity shouldn't be one of them.
"I am confident that the Emergency Broadband Benefit will support these efforts and represent a major step towards a future where all Americans have access to high quality, affordable broadband," he said in a statement.
The Yahoo Money sister site Cashay has a weekly newsletter.
Stephanie is a reporter for Yahoo Money and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.
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