Many families have had to make tough financial decisions because of the coronavirus pandemic, with some families falling behind on electric and water bills, and, in some cases, paying their internet providers.
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.
It's been over a month since the program was rolled out, but with $3.2 billion set aside, they still have a lot of money left to give out. Based on the online claims tracker, only $34.6 million has been given out to U.S. households so far.
"If you think you qualify, you should apply right away," Adriana Mendoza, the government affairs manager at Cox Communications, told us in May. "The funding is available on a first-come, first-served basis."
The FCC said it has pending claims it's still processing, but did not say how many. So, the money might not last much longer.
"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 requirements:
- Household 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, visit the website of an Internet provider that's working with the FCC or visit the program's website to apply. Or you can call 833-511-0311 to request a mail-in application. A list of participating providers can be found here.
While more than $3 billion has been set aside for the program, you should apply quickly.
"$Three point two billion sounds like a lot, but once you spread it around, it will go quickly," Mendoza said. "Don't think too long. Jump on it, act on it and apply."