SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — More than one-million families nationwide, including those in KELOLAND, have enrolled in a federal program to help them pay their monthly internet bills. The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which is part of the $900-billion COVID relief bill Congress passed late last year, provides eligible families with a discount of $50 a month.
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that going online is far beyond the means of many South Dakota families with school-age children.
“We know that there’s a certain element of the population where they have just enough to get by, right? When you factor-in things like Medicaid insurance, day care, things of that nature, internet really becomes a luxury in their budget,” Sioux Falls School District Director of Research, Innovation & Accountability Doug Morrison said.
Even though Sioux Falls students returned to more traditional learning in the classroom this year, the challenge remains for families to get connected at home.
Some students will need their computers again this summer to take part in an academy to get caught up with their schoolwork.
“If they’re doing so something outside the school day, they’ve got to find access to the internet,” Morrison said.
Longtime South Dakota Public Utilities Commissioner Gary Hanson says the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is an important investment in helping families who can’t afford broadband service.
“A lot of people don’t realize but when they pay their fees for their telephones, whether it’s a landline, or a wireless, that phone is paying a portion of this cost and it has been for decades,” Hanson said.
Hanson says he usually opposes government subsidies, but says the monthly broadband discounts will keep more South Dakota families online.
More than 900 broadband providers across the country are taking part in the program.
People who qualify for assistance programs, like SNAP benefits, are eligible for the discounts. To find out if you qualify, click here