Emergency Broadband Benefit (YOU may qualify!)
Approximately 1220 Newaygo County families have signed up for the Emergency Broadband
Benefit (as of the end of August). Many more households qualify! Learn more about this benefit in this interview with Vicki Kavanaugh, Prevention and Advocacy Team Lead from Arbor Circle.
Vicki, what do you do in your role as Prevention and Advocacy Team Lead?
I help to coordinate programming in a 5-county area. I work to connect people to make things work out better for our families. The mission of Arbor Circle is to transform the lives of children, adults and families facing mental health, substance use and family concerns in a caring partnership with our clients and diverse community.
Arbor Circle is a large social service agency, headquartered in Grand Rapids, with satellite agencies in surrounding communities, including Newaygo County. In Newaygo County, we concentrate on a variety of programs including substance use treatment, mental health therapy for children, and prevention programming in schools. For example, the Prime for Life Series is for at risk youth and young adults. Total Tech Quest, a 3-5th grade boys working on skills to navigate school and make positive life choices. This includes running a 5K.
Why did Arbor Circle recently send out a postcard to Newaygo County households regarding the Emergency Broadband Benefit?
We realized early on in the pandemic that we could not easily reach our families. On the clinical level, it had to be virtual or over the phone. In the schools, it was even trickier. We surveyed our clients to see what was impeding them. Sixty percent of clinical care was over the phone and only 40% was via computer. It was even harder to connect with students virtually.
Many of our clients in Newaygo County had no access to broadband because it was not offered where they lived. We also knew that our clients needed financial assistance. They could not afford devices or to pay for an internet service. I learned about the Emergency Broadband Benefit through a posting by Abby Reeg in the Newaygo County Community Collaborative Listserv in March. The Emergency Broadband Benefit allows a resident who qualifies to get a monthly payment towards broadband! The actual benefit did not launch until May.
The Fremont Area Community Foundation gave Arbor Circle funding to help address our clients' lack of access due to a variety of barriers.
What is the criteria to get the Emergency Broadband Benefit and where does a resident go to get it?
According to the FCC, a household is eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program if a member of the household meets one of these criteria:
Has an income at or below 135% of federal poverty guidelines or participates in assistance programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline;
Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, or did so in the 2019-2020 school year;
Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since Feb. 29, 2020; or
Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband provider's existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
There are three ways to apply for the benefit:
Contact your preferred participating broadband provider directly to learn about their application process.
Go to www.GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and find participating providers near you.
Call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application and return it along with proof of eligibility to: Emergency Broadband Support Center P.O. Box 7081 London, KY 40742
Here is what the recent mailing looked like that was sent to households in Newaygo County:
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a temporary assistance program that will expire when federal funds are exhausted or six months after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency.
More information regarding the broadband benefit program and eligibility is available through the Universal Service Administrative Company and the FCC. The FCC also has list of Michigan providers participating in the EBB Program. More providers may be added to this list once they receive required federal approval.