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$50 stimulus to pay internet bill eligibility: who can get it?

A new government program the Emergency Broadband Benefit that provides assistance to pay for internet access is now available to low-income households.

$50 stimulus to pay internet bill eligibility: who can get it?
SAM REEVES AFP

During the covid-19 pandemic many Americans were confined to their homes relying on their internet connection to have access to the outside world for schooling, work and to have a chance to see the faces of friends and family. However, for many households paying for good or any internet connectivity could be a daunting task.

In December Congress took steps to address this issue, including in the $900 billion covid-19-relief package a $50 monthly coupon for low-income households to subtract from their internet bill. Additionally, the Emergency Broadband Benefit program offers eligible households a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer from participating providers if the purchaser contributes between $10 and $50 toward the purchase.

Who qualifies for the Emergency Broadband Benefit?

All US residents are can apply to the program, including non-US citizens. The program only allows one monthly service discount and one device discount per household, but there may be more than one household at an address. For more information on what constitutes a household click here.

A household qualifies for the Emergency Broadband Benefit if it has an income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or the following conditions apply to any member of the household:

  • Qualifies for Lifeline benefits through participation in SNAP, Medicaid, or other federal benefits
  • Participates in one of several Tribal specific programs. Note: if you live on tribal lands you may be eligible for $75 monthly coupon
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020.
  • Received a federal Pell Grant in the current award year.
  • Received approval for benefits under the free and reduced-price school food programs, in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year.
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or covid-19 program, and that provider received FCC approval for its eligibility verification process.

Households that receive Lifeline, another FCC program that subtracts $9.25 a month from phone or internet bills, can also participate in the Emergency Broadband Benefit. Furthermore, even if you owe your phone or cable company money you can get the discount. For more information on qualifying click here.

Additional information about the Emergency Broadband Benefit

The program is temporary and will end when the $3.2 billion that has been allocated for the benefit runs out or six months have passed after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the covid-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner. Participating households will need to opt-in to continue receiving broadband services from their provider after the program ends and will be on the hook for the broadband provider’s general monthly rate.

Keep in mind that not all Internet plans are eligible, particularly ultrafast ones. If your internet is bundled with your cable TV or voice service, the coupon technically can only be used to pay for internet, so you may need to get your provider separate out that portion of the bill to subtract the coupon amount. To find a participating provider the program provides a search tool using your zip code.