Heartland Forward helps Illinois families gain access, awareness to a federal broadband assistance program

Central Illinois Newsday

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — For more than 650,000 Illinois families, affordability is a key deterrent to accessing sufficient internet service, and more than 1.1 million Illinoisans lack at-home computing devices — including just over 20 percent of households with children under the age of 18, according to Heartland Forward, a nonprofit whose mission is to improve economic performance in the center of the United States.

The public awareness campaign is highlighting the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program.

The program uses federal COVID-19 relief funding. It provides eligible homes discounts of up to $50 a month on home internet service. EBB also offers a $100 discount towards the purchase of a laptop, computer, or tablet from a participating provider.

A household is eligible for the program if one member of the household meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • has an income that is at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or the FCC’s Lifeline program;
  • approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch or breakfast program;
  • received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • experienced a substantial loss of income through job loss or furlough since Feb. 29, 2020; or
  • meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

Those eligible can enroll in the program in several ways. If they do not have access to the internet, they can sign up through a participating broadband provider or by calling (833) 511-0311 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. any day of the week to request a mail-in application and more information about the program. If they do have access to the internet, they can apply online at getemergencybroadband.org. Additional information about the EBB is also available at www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit, and at schools, libraries, healthcare facilities, and employment service centers throughout the state. Awareness materials will be shared with community organizations that serve individuals and families who qualify for the program.

Heartland Forward said, “the $3.2 billion federal program is temporary and will conclude when funds run out or six months after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic.”

About Heartland Forward:

Heartland Forward is a nonpartisan, 501c3 organization whose mission is to improve economic performance in the center of the United States by advocating for fact-based solutions to foster job creation, knowledge-based and inclusive growth and improved health outcomes. Heartland Forward conducts independent, data-driven research and programs to facilitate action-oriented discussion and impactful policy recommendations. To learn more, visit https://heartlandforward.org/

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