In welcome news for American families, the coronavirus stimulus bill passed yesterday. The $900 billion relief bill will give Americans under $75,000 a check of $600, and you can find everything you need to know about stimulus check 2 (opens in new tab) right here. Although it makes up a mere $7 billion, not to be overlooked is the pledge to help lower-income Americans improve their broadband access. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a “digital divide” for those who struggle to afford the best internet provider (opens in new tab) for their area, or who experience poor connectivity when studying or working from home.
The bill offers a $50 monthly emergency broadband benefit to those on furlough or without work during the pandemic. According to a press release on Sunday from Senator Ron Wyden, “Ensuring working families can stay online will pay massive dividends for kids’ education, helping people find jobs and jump starting the economic recovery next year.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer also commented that the money would, “help millions of students, families and unemployed workers afford the broadband they need during the pandemic.”
The remaining money will be put toward extending broadband coverage nationwide. In a survey from Pew Research Center (opens in new tab), 22% revealed that their children may need to use public Wi-Fi to finish homework due to a lack of reliable at-home internet, so this is sure to be a welcome development to rural communities or those with poor internet connections.
How will the broadband benefit work?
The $50 broadband payment won’t work in the same way as the stimulus bill, which could be arriving in online bank (opens in new tab) accounts as early as next week. Instead, the government will give the money direct to broadband providers who will then pass discounts down to qualifying customers.
How will you know if you qualify for the benefit? Well, the first thing you should know is that this payment isn’t available for every American. If you or someone in your household has recently been made redundant, you could be eligible. Low-income Americans will also be eligible. We reported back in May (opens in new tab) that 52% of Americans with lower incomes were worried about paying their broadband and cellphone bills over the months to come. While the best cell phone providers (opens in new tab), such as Verizon (opens in new tab) and T-Mobile (opens in new tab), had stepped in to waive late fees given the circumstances, many may feel that this benefit is arriving too late in 2020.