New York City officials are touting a federal program to help eligible families save up to $50 a month on their internet bills — including all public school students in the city.
The Emergency Broadband Benefits program was rolled out by the Federal Communications Commission this year as a temporary measure to help people pay for internet access during the pandemic. Qualifying households can reduce their internet bill by as much as $50 each month (including equipment and device rentals) and also receive a one-time discount on tablets, laptops or desktop computers.
The program is restricted by requirements — one of which is eligibility for free or reduced lunch, a frequent shorthand used to screen for lower-income families.
Yet New York City’s public schools have had free lunch (and breakfast) since 2017. So parents of every public school student can apply for the EBB discount regardless of income.
“Digital connectivity is so important in today’s world, and we’re excited that every family with a child enrolled in a DOE school is eligible for this program,” said DOE spokesperson Sarah Casasnovas in a statement. “We applaud the FCC’s efforts to help advance equity for all, and we encourage New York City families to take advantage of this critical resource.”
The $3.2 billion fund has attracted scant notice to date, with less than 25% of the funding disbursed, according to Chalkbeat: “about $2.5 billion — or 78% of the original pot of money — is left, according to federal data.” Only a fraction of eligible households in New York have signed up: “Nearly 6.6 million households across the country have enrolled in the program, including more than 433,000 households across New York state, according to data compiled by the Federal Communications Commission as of Oct. 18,” Chalkbeat reported.
Non-public school families can also apply for the EBB if at least one person in the household receives certain income-based benefits like SNAP, supplemental security income, federal public housing assistance, or Medicaid, received a federal Pell Grant in this school year, or had “a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020,” the DOE said on its blog.
The application can be filled out online, downloaded and mailed in, or families can call (833) 511-0311 to have a paper form sent to them. Applicants should use the same name that appears on their internet bills to apply for the EBB, or sign up with a provider that’s participating in the program.
The online signup process can be confusing since the same application website screens for both the EBB and another program called Lifeline that also offers discounted internet but with different qualifications.
The application for parents of New York City students to apply for the EBB discount is here. You’ll need to find your school listed under NYC Chancellor’s Office, followed by a lengthy dropdown list of all the city’s schools in alphabetical order.
There are some glitches: some schools are listed as PS and others as P.S., while some schools don’t show up under specific names but are listed as “Pre-K Center on Jackson Avenue” for example.
Families are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible, since the FCC plans to end the program “when the fund runs out of money, or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner.”