Low-income residents of the area could get help paying for internet service by the end of this month.
The temporary federal assistance — open to everyone across the nation — is part of a federal program designed to help residents during the coronavirus pandemic, a news release from the Virginia Legal Aid Society reported.
“The ability to find services, help and information, to apply for jobs and schedule COVID-19 vaccinations, and to take part in online school and college classes depends on having reliable internet connections,” David Neumeyer, executive director of Virginia Legal Aid Society, said in the release. “For many low-income people those connections are unavailable or unaffordable; that is why Virginia Legal Aid Society is helping to publicize this financial help.”
Virginia Legal Aid Society is a nonprofit law firm that provides legal information, advice and representation in civil cases to underprivileged individuals and families. The region has its office in downtown Danville.
The benefit provides a monthly discount of up to $50 for most, but residents won’t see the money directly. Instead the funds will be sent to the provider of the broadband internet service, the release explained. In turn, that provider will lower the monthly bill for those eligible.
In late December, the Consolidated Appropriations Act was signed into law to establish Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund of $3.2 billion to help Americans with internet service during the pandemic, the release stated. The act directs the Federal Communications Commission to use the money to set up what’s known as the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. That’s the program that allows eligible low-income households to receive a discount on broadband service.
The program will conclude when the money runs out or six months after the end of the public health emergency.
There’s no start date, but it’s expected residents should be able to sign up by the end of this month, the release said. The FCC encourages residents to regularly check the website at www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit for details.
The benefit can be applied to the cost of a bundle of services that include broadband, voice, texting and/or associated equipment, the FCC website explains. However, if a bundle includes television service, the customer will be responsible for that part of the bill, as well as any other services above the monthly discount.
The FCC website states a household is eligible if one member of the household:
- Qualifies for the Lifeline program.
- Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019-20 school year.
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year.
- Experienced a substantial loss of income since Feb. 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating providers’ existing, low-income or COVID-19 program.
The website also clarifies that households with a student enrolled in a school district where every student receives free meals are eligible for the benefit.
More details are available online at www.fcc.gov/consumer-faq-emergency-broadband-benefit, or by calling 888-225-5322 and pressing option six. The phone number is available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.