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Bridging a digital divide, subsidized internet program enrollment starts today


A new federal program will provide low-income residents with a monthly subsidy to help pay for internet service. Enrollment begins Wednesday.The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will provide a monthly subsidy of up to $50 to eligible residents to pay for internet services and up to $75 for households on Native American territories.

“In today’s society and especially in the wake of the pandemic, it’s clear that internet access is no longer a luxury any longer,” said Rep. Joe Morelle, who supported the program passed by lawmakers in December as part of a COVID-19 relief package. “It’s a necessity required to participate in the activities of daily living.”

While reliable internet access has been a challenge for many, the pandemic has exacerbated the issue, as adults work from home, children learn from home and families access health care and other services online.

Rep. Brian Higgins and Buffalo Common Councilmember Mitch Nowakowski are urging eligible area residents to sign up as soon as possible. The program will expire when funding runs out.

Organizations and public libraries are helping people register for the program. According to the FCC, a household is eligible if a member of the household meets one of the following criteria:

  • Has an income that is at or below 135% of the?Federal Poverty Guidelines?or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid or Lifeline;
  • Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

In addition to the online site, more information is available by calling 833-511-0311 or your current internet provider.

WBFO's Mark Wozniak contributed to this story.

Noelle E. C. Evans is a general assignment reporter/producer for WXXI News with a background in documentary filmmaking and education.
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