COVID Relief Program Offers Kentuckians, Ohioans $50 a Month Toward Internet Bills

People who lost income during the pandemic and who make less than $198,000 per year, as well as low-income households, could be eligible.

click to enlarge COVID Relief Program Offers Kentuckians, Ohioans $50 a Month Toward Internet Bills
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The Federal Communications Commission says it's providing $50 a month direct payments toward internet bills to those who sign up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, including those in Kentucky and Ohio.

Marty Newell, chief operating officer of the Center for Rural Strategies, said if you're eligible, internet service providers will deduct 50 dollars from your bill every month until the program runs out of money or the pandemic is declared over by health officials.

He added the $3.2 billion program is a step toward equalizing broadband access, but pointed out it's a stopgap solution to a systemic problem.

"What we really want to do in this country is make it so, in the same way that we did with telephones and with electricity, everybody has access to a reasonably affordable option," said Newell.

He explained that people who lost income during the pandemic and who make less than $198,000 per year, as well as low-income households could be eligible.

The catch is that residents need to find internet access to sign up for the program at getemergencybroadband.org.

For help on how to find out if you're eligible and how to apply, visit ebbhelp.org or call the program's hotline number at 833-511-0311 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time seven days a week.

Newell said the discount can't be applied to account bundles that include cable TV or other services, but says individuals can apply and be approved for the program even if they're behind on paying internet bills.

He added that if you can't afford internet without the discount, you're not obligated to continue service when the program ends.

"If you can't afford the plan you're on without the 50 bucks, you can get out of it," said Newell, "at the end of this program, whenever that should comes to pass."

He said he believes long-term solutions are needed to ensure broadband is affordable for Kentuckians, many of whom don't have much of a choice when it comes to who their provider is or how much they pay.

"It is one of those issues that, politically, you can make a lot of hay with because everybody's for it," said Newell. "But when it comes down to the nitty gritty, there are lots of shortcomings in the system."

According to the latest Census data, around 78% of Kentucky households have a broadband internet subscription, lower than the national average of around 86%.

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