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Program Helps Washingtonians Afford Internet at Crucial Time

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021   

SEATTLE -- With the pandemic making internet access more crucial than ever, a federal program is helping people afford it.

The Federal Communications Commission has set up the Emergency Broadband Benefit, which reduces prices for high-speed internet to people who have experienced financial setbacks during the pandemic or are struggling to get by.

The $3.2 billion program will go on until funds run out, or the country is no longer considered to be in a pandemic.

David Keyes, digital equity program manager for Seattle Information Technology, said internet costs can be challenging for people.

"Staying connected is just so incredibly important for folks," Keyes observed. "To stay socially connected, to apply for unemployment or other benefits, to participate in community, to get services, to stay in school, get your education or apply for a job."

The Emergency Broadband Benefit is available now and offers up to $50 per month off internet services and up to $75 per month off to households on tribal lands. The program is being offered through participating internet providers. Folks can find out how to apply at getemergencybroadband.org.

The program also offers up to $100 off the purchase of a laptop, desktop computer or tablet through participating service providers.

Keyes pointed out people have had a hard time staying connected during the pandemic if they don't have access to the internet.

"We've seen it for folks that are housing insecure. We've seen it for older adults, I mean, our grandparents, our parents, ourselves," Keyes outlined. "Just trying to stay connected with family, having that internet has just been so critical."

Folks who qualify include people who participate in certain federal benefits programs, such as Medicaid and SNAP, and households that experienced a substantial loss of income due to the pandemic.

There are also ways to get help applying online, including ebbparami.org, which can guide Spanish-speaking households. People also can get help, including with a translator, at 833-511-4892.

Keyes noted folks can use alternatives to a Social Security number to apply.


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