Applications to get $50 off your internet bill open

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FILE – In this Friday June 5, 2020, file photo, fourth-grader Sammiayah Thompson, left, and her brother, third-grader Nehemiah Thompson, work outside in their yard on laptops provided by their school system for distant learning in Hartford, Conn. Americans can begin applying for $50 off their internet bill on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, as part of an emergency government program to keep people connected during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Americans can begin applying for $50 off their monthly internet bill on Wednesday as part of an emergency government program to help low-income households during the pandemic.

The $3.2 billion program is part of the $900 billion December COVID-19-relief package. 

On top of the $50 deduction, eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy laptops, desktop computers or tablets from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the price.

Those who reside on Tribal lands are eligible for a $75 off their monthly internet bill.

Tens of millions of people are eligible, although the Federal Communications Commission, which is administering the program, did not specify a number.

Here’s which households qualify:

  • Households with an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in some assistance programs, including SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline
  • Those who are approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price lunch program or school breakfast program during the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year
  • Households who received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
  • Those who experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss since Feb. 29, 2020 and the household had a total 2020 income at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers

There are other eligibility requirements, too — see https://getemergencybroadband.org to find out if you qualify and to apply.

You can get the discount even if you owe your phone or cable company money. That’s important because some people have been barred from low-cost plans offered by internet service providers when they owed their service provider money. More than 800 cellphone and home-internet companies are participating, including AT&T, Charter, Comcast, T-Mobile and Verizon.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a more robust, although temporary, program to help people afford internet than Lifeline, the FCC’s other affordability program, which subtracts only $9.25 a month from phone or internet bills. A household can use both the Lifeline and EBB programs.

The Biden administration has proposed $100 billion to get Americans connected, and even before that, billions of dollars are going to improve internet access.

The FCC on Tuesday approved a $7.2 billion program for schools and libraries to connect students in their homes. The Treasury Department is also setting up a $10 billion fund for improving internet connectivity. The money for both came from the $1.9 trillion March pandemic relief package.

There has also been hundreds of billions more in general funds sent to states that could be spent on broadband access.

The Associated Press and Nexstar Media Wire contributed to this report.

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