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Millions sign up for the savings

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Millions of U.S. households have enrolled in the government's emergency broadband benefit program since it kicked off on May 12.

The goal is to prevent families from losing access to an essential resource during the pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says.

"No one should have to choose between paying their internet bill or paying to put food on the table," said the FCC’s acting chair, Jessica Rosenworcel, in a news release when the program opened.The goal of the emergency broadband benefit is to help keep families from losing access to an essential resource during the pandemic.

Working with broadband providers, the FCC offers:

  • Up to $50 a month off of broadband service and associated equipment rentals
  • A discount of up to $75 a month on broadband service if your home is on qualifying tribal lands
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 on a laptop, tablet or desktop computer.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a warning about scammers who were offering to “help” consumers sign up for a so-called government program offering free internet and devices in exchange for money and personal information.

The FTC warned that the Emergency Broadband Benefit is the only official program and there is no fee to apply.

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How to qualify for the discounts

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You're eligible for the internet and computer discounts as long as your household meets one of the following criteria:

  • Your income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty line for your family size or you receive assistance through programs including SNAP "food stamps" or Medicaid.
  • You were approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school breakfast or lunch program during the last or current school year.
  • You experienced a substantial loss of income due to being laid off or furloughed since Feb. 29, 2020, and your household income last year was at or below $99,000 for single tax filers and $198,000 for joint filers.
  • You meet the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband company's existing low-income or COVID programs.

Each household is entitled to just one monthly service and one device discount.

The benefits will be available until the $3.2 billion allocated for the program runs out or until six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID crisis — whichever comes first. The FCC has not revealed how much money is still left.

How to apply

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You can sign up one of three ways:

  • Fill in the online form. You can apply online at GetEmergencyBroadband.org.
  • Mail in an application. If you’d rather send in your application, you can go to the website above and download the form and mail it, along with proof of your eligibility, to the emergency broadband support center in London, Kentucky.
  • Contact your broadband provider. You can check the FCC's website to see whether your internet provider is one of the participating companies. Or you can call your provider’s customer service line to confirm its participation and get help with filling out your application.

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Other ways to bolster your budget during COVID

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Though $50 a month is nothing to scoff at, it may not keep you on your financial feet while the pandemic lingers. Here are a few other ways to give your bank account a little more stimulus.

Cut the cost of your debt. Credit cards can help in emergencies, but their high interest rates can be costly. If you've been relying heavily on plastic to get you through the COVID crisis, try rolling your balances into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan to cut your monthly payments and get out of debt sooner.

Find cheaper insurance. If it's been a while since you last looked around for a better price on your auto insurance, you may easily be overpaying by hundreds of dollars a year. Shop around to find the best possible rate on your coverage.

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Sigrid Forberg Associate Editor

Sigrid’s is Moneywise.com's associate editor, and she has also worked as a reporter and staff writer on the Moneywise team.

Disclaimer

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