During the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses, daily wagers, full-time employees, and government employees suffered financially due to the rising cost of living. This inflation was attributed to blockages in supply chains worldwide, and China's largest manufacturer was on total lockdown to curb the spread of Coronavirus.
To assist individuals and households reeling financially from the negative impacts of the pandemic, the FCC introduced a temporary $3.2 billion relief program for the most vulnerable sections of society. This program was called the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program.
Its main objective was to ensure that marginalized individuals and households did not lose internet access due to their financial situation. One in every five or 20% of US households does not have broadband internet access. This translates to nearly 8% half of the total US population in 2022.
The EBB program provided low-income households and individual consumers a monthly discount of $50 on their internet bills. This EBB discount was $75 per month for people residing on qualifying tribal lands. This allows the program's beneficiaries to stay connected to the internet to access work files, attend online meetings, apply for jobs, and take virtual classes.
In addition to the monthly discount on their internet bills, consumers could obtain a one-time discount of $100 on purchasing a device (PC, laptop, or tablet) from eligible providers. To get the $100 value, consumers would have to contribute an amount of more than $10 and less than $50 to the purchase price.
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What Is the Affordable Connectivity Program?
The EBB program was a temporary program created to cater to the connectivity emergency resulting from COVID-19. The EBB program began transitioning into the longer-term Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) starting on the 31st of December, 2021. The ACP is the successor to the EBB program.
The $14 billion ACP replaced the EBB program after a 60-day transition period. The monthly benefit amount was reduced from $50 per month under the Emergency Broadband Benefit program to $30 per month under the Affordable Connectivity Program.
Based on the household's poverty level or individual, the main eligibility criteria have been increased from 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines under the EBB to 200% under the Affordable Connectivity Program. Most households receiving EBB support automatically began receiving ACP benefits after the 60-day transition ended on the 1st of May, 2022.
However, homes that became eligible for the EBB because they lost their income source due to being laid off on the 29th of February, 2020, continued receiving full EBB benefits until the 1st of March, 2022. Still, beyond that, they received additional directions from the USAC or their internet provider and had 30 days to respond and re-qualify for the ACP.
What Is On Offer With ACP?
The Affordable Connectivity Program is a blessing for all American individuals and households unable to keep up with living expenses due to rising inflation and suffering from financial crises. Low-income individuals and families that qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program receive a $30 discount on their monthly broadband internet bills for non-tribal consumers and a $75 discount if they reside on qualifying tribal lands.
Suppose you purchase an internet-connected device such as a tablet, laptop, or desktop PC from a participating provider. In that case, the Affordable Connectivity Program offers a one-time discount if you can contribute more than $10 and less than $50 towards purchasing the said device.
With Assurance Wireless EBB, qualified low-income households are eligible to receive a free smartphone (model depends on availability) and unlimited high-speed data, text messages, voice minutes, and 10GB mobile hotspot data for free. Existing Lifeline Assistance Program participants are automatically eligible for the Assurance Wireless Unlimited offer.
How Do I Qualify For ACP?
To qualify for the Assurance Wireless Unlimited plan under the Affordable Connectivity Program, you must participate in one or more government assistance programs.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Women, Infant, and Children Program
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
- Free or subsidized school lunch or school breakfast program
You'll need proof of your participation in these programs when applying for Affordable Connectivity Program benefits. If you are not enrolled in government assistance programs, you may qualify for the ACP benefits based on your low household income.
Other eligibility criteria to qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program are as follows:
- The combined household income or that of the applicant should be equal to or less than 200% of the Federal Poverty guidelines.
- Participation in Assurance Wireless' existing low-income program.
- Current enrollment in the federal Pell Grant.
However, remember that one household can apply for a single ACP benefit per month and only one internet-connected device.
The Covid-19 pandemic necessitated the need for low-income people to be connected to the internet. The FCC introduced a temporary internet discount program called the Emergency Broadband Benefit for low-income households to cater to this need.
This program was later replaced by the Affordable Connectivity Program, which now provides monthly discounts on internet bills. Applicants must prove their financial needs and participation in other relevant government assistance programs.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Assurance Wireless is a federal Lifeline Assistance program supported by the Universal Service Fund that provides free or low-cost cell phone service to eligible low-income individuals in the United States.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program is a temporary federal initiative that helps eligible households afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing discounts on monthly broadband bills.
Yes, Assurance Wireless participates in the EBB Program, offering eligible customers a discount on their monthly phone and internet service.
Eligibility criteria for the EBB Program include qualifying for the Lifeline Assistance program, participating in certain federal assistance programs, or having a household income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Visit the Assurance Wireless or EBB Program websites for more details.
To apply for the EBB Program through Assurance Wireless, visit their website and follow the instructions provided for enrollment. You may need to provide documentation to verify your eligibility.
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To learn more about grants and programs that can help low-income individuals, read our article on scholarships for kids with deceased parents. Visit the rest of the Gov-Relations blog posts to improve your financial and living situation.