45,000 Detroit Families Receive Emergency Broadband Benefit

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Image credit: Eli Newman / WDET

The federal program offers up to $50 toward internet bills.

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Many families in Detroit are receiving federal aid to connect to the internet. City officials say 45,000 households have signed up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit since May. The $3.2 billion program applies to anyone who lost substantial income since the beginning of the pandemic and to anyone on federal assistance plans like Medicaid, SNAP, or those qualified through the free and reduced-price school lunch program.

The savings help drastically,” says Myleka Collins. “I’m a mom, a single mom of five children. The $50 that we save on the internet of course goes right back into the household to the children, or towards other bills.”

I do pray that the subsidy continues and is something they make permanent,” Collins adds.

City officials say the federal funding will run at least through the end of the year. They say if more Detroiters apply for the program, they can make a stronger case to make the internet subsidy permanent.

The folks at the federal level are calling this a pandemic response. We’re not,” says Joshua Edmonds, Detroit’s Director of Digital Inclusion. “We’re saying the digital divide has always been an emergency.”

For many Detroiters, being connected to the Internet isn’t about access to entertainment; it’s about access to opportunity,” said Mayor Duggan in a statement. “These days, a child’s education or applying for a job depends on being able to complete online processes. Thanks to this funding provided by Congress and the work of our local partners, thousands of Detroit families can now access those opportunities.”

Detroit is working with local organizations to get residents money for their internet bills. Rakisha Odom works for the nonprofit Brilliant Detroit, which focuses on early childhood development and works with many children who lack access to technology.

A lot of our families are doing homework on their phone. They’re doing work on their phone,” says Odom. ”And sometimes families are sharing a device, so if it’s multiple kids in the household, there’s three or four kids waiting in line for a computer.”

City officials say before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 70% of Detroit’s children lived in homes without a wired broadband connection.

Who is eligible?

Detroit households are eligible if one member of the household:
• Qualifies for the Lifeline program, including those who are on Medicaid or receive SNAP benefits
• Is approved for the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program
• Experienced a substantial loss of income since Feb. 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers
• Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year
• Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating internet service provider’s existing low income or COVID-19 program

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Eli Newman, Reporter/Producer

Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.

eli.newman@wdet.org Follow @other_eli

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