Federal Pandemic Program Gives Discounts on Internet, Laptops

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
The federal Emergency Broadband Program has doled out more than $400 million since May, making high-speed internet more affordable for millions of Americans. Photo Credit: Brittany Hosea Small / AARP

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Advocates for older Americans are working to spread the word about a federal program to cut people’s internet bills.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit program gives people who qualify a $50 credit on their monthly internet bill and a $100 voucher toward a laptop or other mobile device.

Joe Garbanzos, state president for AARP California, said for tribal communities the program goes further, providing a $75 subsidy per month.

“High-speed internet connection is not a luxury. It is a necessity,” Garbanzos argued. “Because you need good internet to do social connection with friends and family, entertainment, telehealth and work.”

Congress approved $3.2 billion for the program, and $2.7 billion is still unused. So far, 5.3 million households have signed up, including 660,000 in California.

To apply, visit the AARP website, or text the word “internet” to the number 22777, or call 833-511-0311.

People who qualify for the lifeline program, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI benefits or free or reduced-price school lunches are encouraged to apply. Garbanzos noted the income limits cover quite a few people, especially those who lost work during the lockdown.

“Those that have been impacted by the pandemic, loss of income,” Garbanzos outlined. “If your income is $99,000 in 2020 or below for single filers, you’re eligible.”

Joint filers who made up to $198,000 in 2020 can qualify. The temporary program will continue until the money runs out. Participants will be notified 60 days before the payments are scheduled to stop.