Sunday, June 13, 2021

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Federal Program to Subsidize Internet Costs Launched

A new federal program will provide low-income families with a monthly subsidy of up to $50 to eligible households to pay for internet services, and up to $75 for households on Native American territories.

Anyone eligible can apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program starting today, May 12, 2021. Eligibility includes anyone at or below federal poverty guidelines, anyone enrolled in SNAP or Medicaid, and anyone facing financial hardship from a job loss during the pandemic.

At the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, WPBS dramatically expanded the selection of educational resources available to North Country students and families to support remote learning. 20%+ of North Country families lack broadband access – either due affordability or because the service is not available in the area where they reside – and so WPBS added 40+ hours/week of remote learning content to its broadcast signals which are freely available to all residents of the North Country, with no Internet connection required.  

Additionally, there is a wealth of free curriculum-aligned learning content, organized by subject and grade level, available on the WPBS website: https://www.wpbstv.org/education/learn-at-home/. WPBS also launched a livestream of its broadcast signal in 2020 which is available to anyone in the North Country with a broadband connection. We hope that the new program will allow more families to access these resources to support learners as they manage the transition back to in-person schooling in the coming months.

A household is eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program if a member of the household meets one of the following criteria:

  • Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline;
  • Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 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; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.