The Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable (MDTC) is recognizing Lifeline Awareness Week by sharing important information about two federal benefit programs that are available to help keep households connected to affordable telecommunications services—the Lifeline Program and the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program.
The Lifeline Program provides a monthly discount to income-eligible households on a wireless or residential phone plan, broadband service or phone-broadband bundled service from a certified Massachusetts Lifeline Provider. Consumers qualify for Lifeline by participating in one of the following government assistance programs: Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA), Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit, certain Tribal support programs OR by having a household income of 135% or below of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. More information on program eligibility and rules is available on the MDTC’s website.
In addition, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress created a complementary program called the Emergency Broadband Benefit. Currently over 65,000 Massachusetts households have enrolled. EBB provides a temporary discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100, with a $10-$50 required co-payment, to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from certain providers.
A household can participate in both Lifeline Program and EBB. For example, an eligible household can have a Lifeline-supported wireless phone service and receive the EBB discount on a separate home broadband service from a different provider. However, it is important to understand that the EBB is a temporary program that will end when the program uses all its funding or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner.
Current Lifeline participants are automatically eligible for the EBB and in most cases, don’t need to apply separately for the benefit; however, they do need to select an approved provider to complete the enrollment process with.
The Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative encourages age-and dementia friendly communities to spread the word about these programs in their cities, towns and regions. You can find out more about the EBB here: https://www.getemergencybroadband.org/.
A list of participating Massachusetts EBB providers is available here: https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-broadband-benefit-providers#Massachusetts.
In these times, with many struggling to get by, Mass. DTC asks that stakeholders join them and their partners —the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (“NARUC”) and National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (“NASUCA”)—to help increase the public’s awareness of these important benefits that are designed to connect our most vulnerable consumers to the nation’s telecommunications network in order to find jobs, access health care services, connect with family, and most importantly, call for help in an emergency.
Those with questions regarding the Lifeline or EBB programs, or have clients, members or constituents that encounter any roadblocks when completing the enrollment process, please do not hesitate to contact the MDTC’s Consumer Hotline, which operates Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, at 1-800-392-6066. We can also be reached by email at email@example.com. Assistance is available in both English, Spanish and Portuguese.