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News New Financial Assistance Programs Available

New Financial Assistance Programs Available

Federal assistance is now available for households experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID pandemic.

Available May 12 Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB)

The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) is a program in which Congress appropriated $3.2 billion to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help low-income households pay for broadband service and connected internet devices during the pandemic. With registration set to open on May 12, 2021, this new benefit will connect eligible households to jobs, critical healthcare services, and virtual classrooms. Acting FCC Chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, says, “We need to use all available tools to get 100% of us connected in this country and this program is an essential part of making that happen.”

What it Covers

EBB will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on Tribal lands. There is a limit of one monthly service discount per household. It’s a temporary program and will end when the fund runs out of money, or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency – whichever is sooner.

Qualifications

The FCC has engaged the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) to implement the EBB Program, using the existing framework of the Lifeline program for subscriber eligibility, enrollment, and service provider reimbursement. Consumers who are eligible for both the EBB program and the Lifeline program can apply for and participate in both programs, up to the full cost of their monthly broadband service. Those already receiving Lifeline benefits will not automatically receive EBB; they must opt-in with their existing provider or request enrollment in the EBB Program with a participating broadband provider and choose an eligible service plan. SKT is an EBB participant.

Your household qualifies for the EBB if it has an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines OR any member of the household:

  • Qualifies for Lifeline benefits through participation in SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance, or Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit;
  • Participates in one of several Tribal specific programs: Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal Head Start (only households meeting the relevant income qualifying standard), Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, with a total household income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers;
  • Received a federal Pell Grant in the current award year; or
  • Received approval for benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year. This benefit has recently been expanded to include those eligible for the 2021-2022 school year.

Application Process

There are three ways to apply for EBBApplications will become available on May 12, 2021.

  • Online with USAC – Use the online application (available in English and Spanish).
  • Mail with USAC – Print an application in English or Spanish (instructions also available in eight additional languages). Complete the application and send with proof of eligibility to:
    Emergency Broadband Support Center
    P.O. Box 7081
    London, KY 40742
  • Contact Your Broadband Provider – SKT is participating in the program, or use EBB’s online tool to find a participating company near you. Participating companies can help you apply through the National Verifier or through their company’s application process.

The FCC is working to make this benefit available as quickly as possible. Check out the Broadband Benefit Consumer FAQ for more information, and the USAC website for the latest updates and application form.

Available Now Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance (KERA)

This new initiative, the Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance (KERA) program, launched on March 15, 2021. Funded through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, it provides the state of Kansas nearly $200 million in funding for rent, utility, and internet-access assistance to individuals and families financially impacted by COVID-19. The Kansas Housing Resources Corporation (KHRC) is serving as administrator of the funds. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly explains, “Keeping Kansans in their homes and businesses – and ensuring they have access to the high-speed internet needed for telehealth, telework, and virtual school – has been a top priority for my administration since day one. This program will be critical in ensuring Kansans can stay secure in their homes, stay warm, and maintain access to the internet.”

While moratoriums have provided tenants with protection from eviction and temporary assistance has helped some tenants cover rent payments, the bills continue to accrue each month, leaving families unsure how they will pay arrears, and leaving landlords without income. Enter KERA:

What it Covers

The KERA program offers tenants up to 12 months of assistance with current or past-due rent and past-due utility (including electric, gas, water, sewer, trash removal, and home energy services), and internet bills. Renters can apply for assistance with all, some, or any one of the services offered. All expenses must have been billed or charged on or after April 1, 2020.

Qualifications (must meet all)

  • You rent your home;
  • Your 2020 household income did not exceed 80% of your area’s median income;
  • At least one member of your household is experiencing documented financial hardship as a result of the COVID pandemic. Hardship may include loss of employment, reduction in household income, or significant COVID-related expenses (medical bills, personal protective equipment, child-care costs, equipment or internet costs to enable online work/schooling, etc.);
  • At least one member of your household is uncertain where they will stay or may become homeless without housing assistance;
  • You can provide valid proof of identification.

Application Process

Both the tenant and the landlord must apply online. If the applicant meets the eligibility criteria, payments will be made on the tenant’s behalf directly to the landlord or service provider(s).

  1. Landlord completes online certification.
  2. Tenant submits online application.
  3. Landlord and tenant are notified when application is processed.
  4. If approved, landlord and/or service provider(s) receive funds directly from KHRC.
  5. Landlord and/or service provider(s) applies assistance to tenant account.

To learn more about KERA or apply for assistance, go to the KHRC website. If you need help completing or submitting your KERA application, community partners are standing by to assist you:

  • Butler, Cowley, Greenwood & Sumner County:  Mid-Kansas Community Action Program – 316.775.3000
  • Chautauqua & Elk County:  Southeast Kansas Community Action, Inc. – 620.724.8204
  • Sedgwick County:  Wichita Sedgwick County Community Action Partnership – 316.462.3746

Ongoing Lifeline

Since 1985, the Lifeline program has provided a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers to ensure that all Americans have the opportunities and security that phone service brings, including being able to connect to jobs, family, and emergency services. The Lifeline program is available to eligible low-income consumers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal lands.

The Lifeline program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). USAC is responsible for data collection and maintenance, support calculation, and disbursement for the low-income program.

With Lifeline, you may be eligible to receive up to $17.02 off your monthly SKT bill. This benefit can be combined with the EBB program, but Lifeline participants will need to apply for EBB. To learn more about Lifeline, download the flyer and/or fill out the application here.