The City of Little Rock, the Little Rock School District, Central Arkansas Library System, and nonprofit Heartland Forward are working together to increase awareness for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program which provides temporary credits to help lower the cost of broadband service for eligible households during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. The program includes a $50 monthly credit and $100 toward the purchase of a computer, laptop, or tablet if the household contributes more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase through a participating broadband provider.
“Despite broadband access being available across almost the entire city, we still have a digital divide because of affordability, so digital inequity is not just a rural issue in our state, it is also an urban issue,” Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott said. “There are families in Little Rock which lack access to broadband service because of the cost, and I am grateful to our partners in this comprehensive outreach campaign as we work to get more families connected.”
A household is eligible if one member of the household meets at least one of the following criteria:
* Has an income that is at or below 135% 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 program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, in the 2019-2020, 2020-2021, or 2021-2022 school year;
* Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
* Experienced a substantial loss of income through job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
* Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
“We know that as kids go and do their work, some are in-person… some are virtual, but even if you are in-person the learning should never stop when you go home, and kids should be excited to continue their studies and be engaged, and they need that broadband,” LRSD Superintendent Poore said. “It’s not just enough for us to give hot spots. It’s not just enough to give laptops. We’ve got to create a bigger blanket of support for all of our students.”
The City’s community centers and CALS branches will serve as enrollment sites for those who are unable to access the online application. LRSD will utilize its community schools feeding program to include flyers in the backpacks of every student so that parents will receive the eligibility information and how to apply. An advertising campaign on radio in both English and Spanish language, sponsored by Heartland Forward, will also launch in October to increase the number of residents taking advantage of the credit. Residents can learn about eligibility and enroll by visiting the City of Little Rock official website and clicking on emergency broadband.