Veterans, survivors, and active duty members may be eligible for free or discounted internet, plus up to a $100 discount on a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. A new federal program, The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, offers discounted internet service and modest discounts on computers to qualifying applicants including active duty military, veterans, and surviving family members.
This $3.2 billion federal program is offered via the Federal Communications Commission and is intended to help low-income American citizens better afford high-speed internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Details
Eligible households (see below) can receive the following COVID-19 relief for broadband internet:
- Up to a $50 per month discount on household broadband service and broadband equipment rental
- Up to $75 per month discount if the household is located on qualifying Tribal lands
- A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer (with a required small co-pay)
- One monthly service discount and one device discount per household
The Federal Communications Commission announced this program would begin taking applications for these benefits on May 12, 2021. The government stops taking them at such time as the Department of Health and Human Services announces an end to the coronavirus health emergency, or when the program runs out of funding–whichever occurs first.
Who Qualifies For Emergency Broadband Benefit Assistance
Veterans are eligible for this program if they, or someone in their household, qualify for Lifeline benefits through SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance, or receive Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefits. They may also qualify if they meet any of the other requirements listed below.
In general, this program is open to households with qualifying income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines established for other federal benefits. But it is ALSO open in cases where “any member of the household” meets any of the following requirements:
- Applicant qualifies for Lifeline benefits through SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance, or Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit
- Applicant participates in Tribal specific programs via the Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal Head Start, Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families AKA Tribal TANF, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
- Applicant has had a substantial loss of income since Feb. 29, 2020 with a total household income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers
- Applicant has received a federal Pell Grant in the current award year
- Applicant has been approved to receive benefits under certain free and reduced-price school lunch programs, or the school breakfast program, (including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision) in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year
- Applicant meets requirements for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program, and that provider received FCC approval for its eligibility verification process
Any member of your household may make the home eligible for this program. One monthly service discount and one device discount per household only even if there are multiple eligible users in the same household.
Those who already draw “Lifeline benefits” such as SNAP, Medicaid, etc. are automatically qualified. Households that already benefit from a private company’s COVID-19 relief options may still qualify for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.
Applicants with a “substantial loss of income since Feb. 29, 2020” because of a job loss or furlough may qualify for the program if the total household income in 2020 was at or below $99,000 (for single tax filers) and $198,000 (for joint tax filers).
Where To Apply For Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Benefits
There are three ways to apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program:
- Online via the Universal Service Administrative Company
- By applying via your current internet provider (see below)
- By mail
When applying by U.S. mail, you will be required to fill out the application form. Complete the application and send with proof of eligibility to:
Emergency Broadband Support Center
P.O. Box 7081
London, KY 40742
Applying Via Your Broadband Internet Provider
Not all broadband companies participate in this program–you will need to contact your provider to see if they are currently offering this form of internet relief. You can use the Companies Near Me search tool to see if the Emergency Broadband Benefit program is offered in your area.
Documentation Required To Apply
There are several documents that you will be required to duplicate and submit copies of (do NOT send originals) to apply for this assistance. Among the required types of documentation you will need to provide an approved ID to help verify your identity. You are allowed to select one from the following list:
- Social Security Number
- Tribal Identification Number
- U.S. Driver’s License
- Government-issued ID, such as a state ID
- U.S. Military ID
- Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
Documentation is also required to show household income, which must include:
- Prior year’s state, federal, or Tribal tax return
- Current income statement from your employer or a paycheck stub
- Social Security statement of benefits
- VA statement of benefits
- Unemployment statement of benefits
- Worker’s Compensation statement of benefits
- Divorce decree, child support award, or a similar official document
- A retirement or pension statement of benefits
All “identity documents” must have your first and last name plus your date of birth. Use of your Social Security Number is NOT required to use this benefit program but program guidelines indicate that those who do submit their Social Security Number will have their applications processed faster than others who do not.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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