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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

Federal funds drying up to keep internet service on for low-income households

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Tuesday, January 23, 2024   

Low-income households across the United States now face a deadline to sign up for federal funds that give them a break on their monthly internet bills. Poverty-fighting offices in North Dakota hope more families try to stay connected in the short term.

The Federal Communications Commission has announced that February 7 is the last day to enroll in its Affordable Connectivity Program. The initiative provides a monthly discount of up to $30 toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for those on qualifying Tribal lands.

Faith Marthe, director of outreach & technology of Community Action Partnership offices in North Dakota, said her office has assisted with enrollment, and added the organization can be an important boost for the time being.

"Internet connectivity, just [for] a couple of months, is able to connect people to a variety of resources that they can use right away to find employment and to get themselves directed to education," she explained.

But Marthe acknowledged that suddenly losing the aid -- and internet service -- puts many households in a tough position, especially in a rural state such as North Dakota. The FCC projects that funding will run out as early as April. However, there is a bipartisan bill in Congress to renew the aid.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, is a co-sponsor, but it's unclear if the measure can overcome calls from some Republicans to cut spending.

The program also provides discounts for eligible people to purchase certain electronic devices. Marthe said based on their feedback, that component of the effort has been a lifeline for some households.

"I know of a few individuals I've spoken with that have indicated they were able to get a device, which was incredibly helpful because if you have internet but no device, it's very hard to use," she continued.

Marthe's team has helped nearly 100 North Dakotans sign up for the program over the past six months. Meanwhile, nearly 175 municipal leaders from around the country, including Fargo's mayor, have sent a letter to Congress calling for a new round of funding.

Disclosure: Community Action Partnership of North Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Housing/Homelessness, Hunger/Food/Nutrition. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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