Press Releases

CONGRESSWOMAN STACEY E. PLASKETT AND 143 OF HER COLLEAGUES URGE FCC TO COORDINATE WITH OTHER FEDERAL AGENCIES TO INFORM LOW-INCOME FAMILIES THEY CAN RECEIVE BROADBAND SERVICES

Washington, April 28, 2020

 

For Immediate Release                                    Contact: Michael J. McQuerry

April 28, 2020                                                       202-215-8524

 

Press Statement 

CONGRESSWOMAN STACEY E. PLASKETT AND 143 OF HER COLLEAGUES URGE FCC TO COORDINATE WITH OTHER FEDERAL AGENCIES TO INFORM LOW-INCOME FAMILIES THEY CAN RECEIVE BROADBAND SERVICES

Washington DC - Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett, Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research along with Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations, and Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) led 140 colleagues in the House and Senate in sending a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to work directly with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to inform families of their eligibility for broadband and telephone assistance.  The Congresswoman released the following statement: 

“Millions of Americans eligible for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid are also eligible for the FCC’s Lifeline program—the primary federal program charged with helping low-income families obtain broadband and telephone services.

“Non-essential businesses and schools have closed in the Virgin Islands to limit the spread of the coronavirus, leaving families to rely on the internet now more than ever to access public benefits, search for employment, learn from home, or access telehealth services. The need is greatest among low-income households forced to stretch limited resources to try to keep up with monthly expenses and put food on the table during the public health crisis.  For these vulnerable populations, the FCC’s Lifeline program can help struggling families afford basic internet and telephone connectivity at a time when they need it most – but only if they know about it,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“While we understand that the FCC has traditionally issued guidelines for states and telecommunications providers to advertise the Lifeline program, given the critical role of internet connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic, I have led the effort to urge the FCC to coordinate directly with USDA and HHS as well as territories, states and stakeholders to help ensure people in need are informed about their eligibility for the Lifeline program.

“The letter is supported by Public Knowledge, the National Consumers Law Center, United Church of Christ, OC Inc., and Third Way.  The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, especially here in the Virgin Islands, that connectivity is more important than ever. I have called for the FCC to coordinate with agencies that administer services that determine eligibility for the Lifeline program to ensure that communities in the Virgin Islands learn about the critical Lifeline program. Virgin Islanders cannot afford for the government to work in silos and we as Members of Congress must make sure more Americans and Virgin Islanders alike know about this essential program in our social safety net.

“The Lifeline program provides critical connectivity for those who need it most. Informing consumers about their Lifeline eligibility is a necessary step to help close the digital divide and is clearly something we should continue doing even after the pandemic ends.”

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