Are you finding it difficult to make ends meet each month?
If you are on a low income, you may not have access to luxuries and creature comforts. Furthermore, with the high cost of living, even paying rent and utility bills can sometimes be a challenge.
Fortunately, there are several programs in the United States that are designed to assist low-income households. This helps to give people who receive benefits access to additional essential services.
So, let’s find out…
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB) was established to help give low-income households access to the internet. This program ended on December 31, 2021, and was replaced by the Affordable Connectivity Program.
Eligible households were offered the following discounts:
- Up to $50 per month for broadband internet service
- A one-time discount of up to $100 toward the cost of a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet
- Up to $75 per month for broadband internet service on qualifying tribal lands
So, the Emergency Broadband Benefit entitled qualifying households to receive one monthly broadband service discount and a device purchase discount. This was intended to be a temporary solution to internet access back during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, it was subsequently replaced by the ACP, which is intended to serve as a permanent solution, if necessary.
How the Emergency Broadband Benefit Worked?
The program was overseen by the USAC. It used the existing Lifeline program to check the eligibility of applicants and contact internet service providers. After signing up, participants could choose the participating service provider and transfer their monthly Emergency Broadband Benefit.
People who were already using an internet service provider often had to switch plans in order to qualify. But it was essential to ensure that the selected plan qualified for Emergency Broadband Benefit transfer. And the amount participants had to pay was dependent on the total cost of the monthly plan.
Instead of receiving the funds each month, they were directly transferred to the selected service provider. Participants did not receive the balance of the monthly funds if the service cost was below the designated amount. However, if the monthly bill exceeded the allocated funds, participants were responsible for paying the balance.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit could also be applied to any bundle, including broadband internet. But the benefit was specifically designed to cover the internet service costs. So participants were responsible for paying any remaining fee after the benefit amount had been discounted.
The benefit could also be used to secure discounts on the internet service provided by landlords. Of course, participants had to make sure that their landlord had selected an eligible broadband service provider, though. Generous landlords would make sure to secure the benefit and apply it to the rent total to provide a discount.
How long benefits lasted?
It was available only for a specified period of time. This was six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declared the COVID-19 pandemic was at an end. For this period, a total of $3.2 billion in funding was allocated for the Emergency Broadband Benefit initiative.
The definition of a household
The initiative was designed to help households to get connected. But while many people assume that only families qualify as a household, this is not the case. The definition was widened to include a range of different situations. A household is basically defined as a group of people who live together and share finances.
The full definition of a household includes:
- A family consisting of two parents and one or more minors
- Or a single parent with one or more minors
- Three roommates sharing accommodation and pooling finances
- An adult living with and supported by other people
Who Qualified for Emergency Broadband Benefit?
The initiative was intended for people living below the poverty line. It was designed to provide extra assistance to people who couldn’t afford to get connected to the internet. Moreover, this helped households gain access to information for work, school, and entertainment.
It was necessary to meet at least one of the following criteria to qualify:
- If you qualify for SNAP, Medicaid, FPHA, Lifeline, SSI, or the Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit
- Earn below 135% of the set Federal Poverty Guidelines
- Participate in the National School Lunch Program, the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or the School Breakfast Program during the 2019 to 2020 school year
- Receive a Federal Pell Grant during the ongoing award year
- Be eligible for a participating service provider’s low-income COVID-19 discount
Service Providers Who Participated in the Emergency Broadband Benefit?
A long list of service providers was supplied by the Federal Communications Commission. This was designed to ensure that as many people in need as possible in the United States could enroll. However, the amount of support offered by these service providers varied widely.
Participating internet providers included:
- Verizon Home Internet
- US Cellular
- TracFone Wireless
- Ready Wireless
- Cricket Wireless
- Cox Communications
- Boost Mobile
In addition, a large number of these service providers offered discounted devices to qualifying households. This made it easier for low-income households to gain access to laptops, desktop computers, and tablets. However, not all participating service providers offered this discount, and it was necessary to check carefully.
Service providers that offered discounted devices included:
- TracFone Wireless
- Cox Communications
Facts and Figures
In the first twelve days of the initiative, more than 1.5 million people enrolled. This number rose to 2,553,283 households by the middle of June 2021. Of this number, 66,505 households were tribal.
Other relevant statistics include:
- More than 900 broadband providers participated in the initiative
- 239,336 households enrolled in the week of June 7th to 13th
- The state with the most participants was California, with 250,234 households
- The least participants per state was Wyoming, with 783 households
- Total designated funding was $3,136,000,000
The initiative led to partnerships
A number of large corporations took advantage of the initiative to offer low-income households special deals. In fact, Walmart and AT&T created a partnership to provide wireless plans and home internet for households on the Emergency Broadband Benefit. Moreover, Walmart customers were able to secure the right plan for them at their local store or through the company’s website.
Elderly people were encouraged to enroll
The American Association of Retired Persons launched a nationwide campaign to encourage senior citizens to take advantage of the EBB. This made it easier for elderly people to stay connected with their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, this also gave them access to online healthcare services and allowed them to get prescriptions filled more easily.
Not all service providers were approved
Even though hundreds of service providers took part in the initiative, it took a while to get approved. Some companies like EarthLink had to wait for FCC approval for several months. This is because the FCC had to ensure that service providers specifically offered low-cost services for people on benefits.
About the Affordable Connectivity Program
This initiative is designed to offer roughly the same benefits as the Emergency Broadband Benefit initiative. It is suitable for households as long as at least one member of the household qualifies. A qualifying member needs to prove that they meet the stated criteria using documentation.
The qualifying criteria are as follows:
- Qualifies for the Lifeline Program
- Approved for the National School Lunch Program
- Or approved for the School Breakfast Program
- Has received a Pell Grant within the current year
- Currently eligible for a service provider’s low-income plan
- Receives assistance through WIC or SNAP
While the two initiatives are largely the same, there are certain differences to be aware of. For example, some of the qualifications changed, while the monthly benefit was also reduced slightly. While families on WIC now qualify, a substantial loss of income in 2020 is no longer a qualifying factor.
Although the Affordable Connectivity Program was launched at the end of 2021, there was a sixty-day transition period. Through that time, people receiving EBB continued to get their monthly allowance.
Since then, a number of additional service providers have now been approved, including Xfinity.
If you or someone you know is finding it difficult to make ends meet or to get back into the job market, we have a lot of useful resources to share with you. So, find out anything from the Benefits of Having a Job to How to Get a Pay Stub, and staying with the theme of tax refunds, How To Get Your W-2 From a Previous Employer in 2023.
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Ok, back to today’s US benefit program question…
The Emergency Broadband Benefit program was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic and was designed to provide extra assistance to low-income households suffering the effects of the pandemic. In addition to receiving free internet services, participants could also receive discounts on computers and electronic devices to use.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is over, millions of people in the United States still need extra support. So the Affordable Connectivity Program was established to provide a more permanent solution for low-income households. People who qualify can receive access to free or cheaper internet connections, as well as cheaper computers, tablets, and laptops.
That’s a valuable benefit!