coronavirus pandemic

Get Help Paying for Internet During Pandemic

NBC 7 Responds looks at how families can qualify for assistance before the money runs out

NBC Universal, Inc.

Many families have had to make tough financial decisions because of the coronavirus pandemic, with some families falling behind on electric, water or even Internet bills.

The Federal Communications Commission, though, is trying to help people stay connected. The FCC's Emergency Broadband Benefit will give you up to $50 per month toward broadband service, and up to $75 per month for people on tribal lands. Some families may also qualify for a $100 credit for a computer or tablet.

"If you think you qualify, you should apply right away," said Adriana Mendoza, the government affairs manager at Cox Communications. "The funding is available on a first-come, first-served basis."

While the program could help some families that are struggling, the money may not last long.

"It could be one month or it could be six months," Mendoza said. "It really depends on how soon the funding runs out."

To qualify, your household must meet one of the following:

  • An income that is at, or below, 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • Be approved for the free and reduced-price school lunch or breakfast programs.
  • Received a federal Pell Grant for this current year
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income since Feb. 29, 2020
  • Meet the eligibility criteria for a broadband provider's existing low-income or COVID-19 programs

"You have to be someone who may have been affected by unemployment or furlough due to the pandemic," Mendoza said regarding Cox's policy. "Also, if you're part of government programs like Social Security Insurance, SNAP, housing. There's a whole list of programs. If you qualify for those, you will likely qualify for this discount."

To apply for the program, you need to visit the website of an Internet provider that's working with the FCC. You can also visit the program's website to apply. Finally, you can call 833-511-0311 to request a mail-in application. You can find a list of participating providers in your area here.

While more than $3 billion has been set aside for the program, you should apply quickly.

"$3.2 billion sounds like a lot, but once you spread it around, it will go quickly," said Mendoza. "Don't think too long. Jump on it, act on it and apply."

Cox customers can learn how to apply here. Spectrum and Charter customers can learn how to apply here.

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