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Opinion: Assistance for broadband bills now available in West Virginia

By Charlotte Lane, chair

West Virginia Public Service Commission

Two new realities have become obvious in the past year.  Our society has increasingly become much more dependent on internet service than ever before for school, work and shopping.  And, due to the pandemic, many people who have never before had difficulties paying their bills have had to rely on assistance to make ends meet. 

Charlotte R. Lane

Now there is help to make broadband services more affordable.  I’m happy to tell you about the Emergency Broadband Benefit available through the Federal Communications Commission for a limited period of time.

The FCC’s new Emergency Broadband Benefit provides a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households.  Those who qualify may also receive a one-time discount of $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers if they meet certain eligibility criteria.  This program is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.

To qualify, the household must have a total household income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines ($17,388 for a family of four) or any member of the household qualifies for Lifeline benefits through participation in SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, Federal Public Housing Assistance or Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefits; participate in one of several Tribal specific programs; experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, due to job loss or furlough and had a total household income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; received approval for benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year; or meet the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

There are three ways to apply.  You can contact your broadband provider and ask about their application process; visit https://getemergencybroadband.org/ to find participating providers and/or apply online; or call 833-511-0311 to request a mail-in application.

I hope you will look into this exciting new program, a timely opportunity for many in the Mountain State.

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