The internet plays a key role in our lives. We need it to work and access healthcare services. Also, it's crucial for children's and adults' education.
According to Statista, 5.18 billion people use the internet worldwide. That's 64.6% of the population. However, the latest figures on global connectivity show inequality.
ITU's Facts and Figures says that the cost of internet services has fallen in many countries. However, it's still a challenge for many households.
Internet access is crucial. If getting online is difficult, we face employment and educational challenges. It also affects access to comprehensive healthcare services, harms communication, and impacts our well-being.
According to Feeding America, over 41 million people used SNAP benefits to purchase food in 2022. This is the country's largest program to fight hunger.
Such figures show that millions of people cannot afford food. How can they pay for internet services? That's why governments should maintain their affordability.
Luckily, several programs provide affordable internet for families on SNAP. Here's everything we should know about them.
About the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It provides monthly monetary benefits to buy food. Limited-income families are eligible.
This federal program supplements our income and helps us buy food. The SNAP program's main goal is to increase families' grocery budgets. As a result, people with limited resources can have nutritious meals. They're essential for good health and well-being.
State agencies determine eligibility for SNAP. To know if we can receive these benefits, we should contact these entities.
We'll receive monthly payments if the state agency determines we're eligible. However, it depends on our household's income. Essentially, we must meet these three requirements:
Gross Monthly Income
It's our income before deductions. This figure should be below 130%, according to the Federal Poverty Guidelines. We should remember that the poverty line varies based on our family's size.
Our income must also be at or below the poverty line after deductions. This is another eligibility rule for SNAP benefits.
Additionally, households with limited assets may be eligible. If a family member is 60 or older, these belongings' value must not exceed $4,250. It also applies to people with disabilities.
However, the limit is lower if there's no older adult or disabled person in the family. In these cases, assets must be worth $2,750 or less.
What Is An Asset? What Counts as Income?
We must also answer these questions to understand SNAP eligibility. Overall, earnings from all sources count as cash income. It includes wages before payroll taxes, deductions, and money from assistance programs.
Social Security unemployment insurance, child support, and cash assistance are part of a household's income.
Assets are all the resources that households may have to purchase food. It includes amounts in bank accounts. Our personal property, home, or retirement savings don't count. However, states may relax this limit.
We must also meet work requirements to be eligible for SNAP benefits. These often include the following:
● Registering for work
● Taking a job offer if presented
● Not voluntarily quitting a job
● Not voluntarily reducing working hours
● Participating in employment or training programs assigned by the state
Also, we may be disqualified from the program if we fail to meet these requirements. However, they don't apply to children, pregnant women, seniors, and individuals with specific physical or mental conditions.
Who Is Not Eligible for SNAP Benefits?
Most people are eligible for SNAP benefits regardless of the following:
● Political beliefs
● Religious beliefs
● National origin
However, a few people may not be eligible for SNAP. Even if they meet asset and income requirements, some applicants may not receive approval. This group includes:
● Individuals with undocumented immigration status
● People in strike
● Some students
A few undocumented non-citizens can receive SNAP benefits. However, they must meet specific requirements. These are:
● Live in the country for at least five years
● Receive disability-related benefits
● Be under 18
In addition, undocumented non-citizens must satisfy other requirements. These applicants must meet resources and income limits to qualify for SNAP.
Students aged between 18 and 49 may not be eligible for SNAP if enrolled in college half-time. However, specific exemptions may alter eligibility.
SNAP Benefits for Individuals and Households
SNAP benefit amounts vary based on several factors. They include an individual's or family's income, size, and expenses. Most recipients should spend 30% of their net income on food products.
Individuals with no net income receive the maximum possible benefit. This amount is based on the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan (TFP). It includes costs to purchase food and maintain a nutritious diet according to Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
If we have income, the SNAP benefit for our household is the maximum possible payment minus our 30% contribution for food.
Households received $240 monthly in 2019 and 2020 (fiscal years), on average. However, these amounts changed during the pandemic. Also, the TFP increased.
On the other hand, individual SNAP recipients received about $121 each month. It accounts for $4.00 per day. However, SNAP monthly payments rose from April 2020. This increase resulted from legislation to issue temporary emergency allotments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, the Food and Nutrition Service announced that SNAP amounts would return to normal. Emergency allotments for the COVID-19 pandemic ended in February of this year. As a result, payments aren't as high as before.
Accessing Affordable Internet Services for SNAP Recipients
Individuals or families eligible for SNAP benefits cannot afford internet services and other needs. However, getting online is increasingly important.
Today's society relies on the internet for daily activities. These include work, recreation, health, exercise, shopping, and more. Sadly, not every household has access to this resource.
However, the federal government offers subsidized programs to solve these issues. They provide cheap internet service for SNAP recipients, helping them stay connected. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and Lifeline Support are two of them.
Understanding the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
The Federal Communications Commission offers an assistance program to provide internet access. It helps limited-income individuals afford the high-speed internet broadband they need for different activities.
This program provides discounted internet for SNAP recipients and other eligible individuals/households. We can receive a $30 monthly discount to cover internet service costs. If we're on a qualifying Tribal land, the amount goes up to $75 per month.
Additionally, this program grants a $100 discount to help families or individuals purchase equipment. We can use this benefit to buy a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet.
However, we're required to make contributions of at least $10, limited to $50. This is a mandatory eligibility requirement for the equipment purchase discount.
Who Is Eligible for ACP Benefits?
We may be eligible for the ACP if our income is below 200%, as set by the Federal Poverty Guidelines. These are:
● 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia: The poverty line is $14,580. This amount varies depending on the household's size. It's $50,560 for families with eight members, for example.
● Alaska: The poverty line is $18,210 for families with one person and $63,220 for households with eight individuals.
● Hawaii: The amount is $16,770 for families with one person and $58,140 for households with eight people.
Find more information about the US Federal Poverty Guidelines here.
We also have to qualify for an internet service provider's program. Many companies are part of the ACP and offer options for people with low income. Additionally, we must prove that an individual in our household is eligible for SNAP.
How Do I Get Internet with SNAP Benefits Through ACP?
The ACP provides internet access through a straightforward application process. These are the steps we must follow:
● Find the application form on the ACP website
● Complete the form online or print it
● Finish the process or mail the form
● Contact a participating internet service provider
● Submit the required documents
● Wait for approval
● Sign up with the chosen provider to get internet service
If we're eligible and complete the online application, we may receive immediate approval. However, the process may take longer if we mail the form.
We can also contact our current internet company to find out if it participates in the ACP. These internet providers can guide us through the application process.
Required Documents for Application
If we plan to apply for ACP discounted internet benefits, we need a few documents. To sum up, these are:
● Current annual income statement or another proof of income
● Social Security Card or another proof of identity
● Utility bill or another proof of address
● SNAP benefit award letter or another document proving program participation
Understanding Lifeline Support for Affordable Communications
The Federal Communications Commission offers another program for low-income people who need internet services – Lifeline Support.
This federal program provides cheap internet for SNAP recipients and other low-income consumers. Lifeline offers discounts to low-income families on the following services:
● Monthly telephone service
● Broadband internet service
● Bundled voice-broadband packages
These services qualify for Lifeline discounts if we purchase them from participating wireline or wireless providers. The program's main purpose is to help limited-income individuals and families access 21st-century broadband.
Lifeline Support recipients can receive up to $9.25 monthly discounts on internet costs. Households in Tribal lands can get up to $34.25 off their connectivity service.
However, there are a few limitations. Subscribers can receive Lifeline benefits for a wireless or wireline service. We cannot get discounts for both.
This program also supports broadband internet and broadband voice bundles. However, each household is eligible for only one service discount.
Who Is Eligible for Lifeline Internet Benefits?
There are two ways to qualify for Lifeline support. As mentioned, this program offers discounted internet for SNAP recipients and other programs' beneficiaries. We may also be eligible depending on our income.
If our income is 135% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines, we can apply for Lifeline Support. The poverty line varies depending on our household's size and location.
We may also qualify for Lifeline Support if our dependent or child participates in assistance programs.
Also, we have to be at least 18 years old to qualify for Lifeline benefits. There's an exception for emancipated minors if they can prove their status.
How Do I Get Internet with SNAP Benefits Through Lifeline?
Lifeline provides internet for families on SNAP and other eligible parties through a two-step application process.
We only have to apply through the Lifeline website to confirm if we qualify for the program. After filling in the application form, we should submit the required documentation. The last step is to sign up to get internet support.
However, the process is slightly different if we live in Oregon, Texas, or California. We should visit the state website or contact our phone/internet company to request information on the Lifeline application.
These are the documents we must submit to get Lifeline internet support:
● Proof of participation in a qualifying program, such as SNAP
● Proof of household income
● Birth certificate or other document showing personal data
● Social Security Number or Tribal ID Number
● Proof of address
● Proof of identity, such as government or military ID
● Court document (for emancipated minors)
Making Internet Access More Accessible for SNAP Recipients
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law over three decades ago. When it was enacted, the internet was still young. This service was unavailable for most people.
Since 1990, the internet has grown in popularity and importance. Today, it's crucial. Most banking, educational, shopping, and healthcare activities occur online. However, people with disabilities don't have full access to this resource.
Individuals with physical, cognitive, visual, and speech disabilities have more limited access to the internet. Also, online content isn't suitable for most of them.
However, different federal laws and policies require entities to operate online to ensure websites are accessible to disabled people. Electronic and information technology must be available to individuals with disabilities.
In addition, authorities promote the use of assistive technologies and devices. They can help people with disabilities have better access to the internet. These are some examples:
● Screen readers
● Braille keyboards
● Braille displays
● Screen magnifiers
● Hands-free mouse-tracking devices
● Sip and puff systems
● Voice controls
● And more
The US government also offers ACP and Lifeline discounts. These benefits provide broader internet access to people with disabilities.
Disabled individuals or their households may be eligible for these programs. The ACP and Lifeline Support provide low-cost or free internet for families on SNAP if a member has a disability.
Limitations and Restrictions
Benefits are similar for all SNAP recipients and other beneficiaries, including individuals with disabilities. Also, there are several limitations and restrictions to be aware of. These are:
Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
We can choose a service plan according to our needs. No internet provider can force us to pick an expensive or lower-quality option.
However, we must use the discounted internet service at least once every 30 days. Our provider will send us a 15-day notice to use this benefit. If we don't, the service will get turned off. We may need to reapply for the ACP if that's the case.
There are no limitations on internet usage for Lifeline Support recipients. However, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) or our state will check to confirm if we still qualify for the program. This process is annual.
In addition, we're entitled to minimum service standards. Each provider must offer at least 1024 GB (internet usage) and 25/3 Mbps (internet speed) each month. There are also requirements for companies focused on cellphones and bundled service offerings.
Availability of Internet Programs for SNAP Recipients
Both programs are available nationwide. Lifeline provides cheap internet for SNAP recipients in every state. Low-income consumers in each commonwealth, territory, and Tribal land may also apply.
However, methods to apply for Lifeline in California, Texas, and Oregon are different. We should visit each state's website for more information on the process.
SNAP recipients in every state and territory can also apply for ACP discounts. However, we must find a provider near us. This Companies Near Me tool can help us.
Affordable internet access is crucial for SNAP recipients. This program offers monetary benefits to people with low income. Beneficiaries receive monthly payments to supplement their grocery budget and purchase nutritious food.
Unfortunately, SNAP recipients are struggling to pay for other needs, including the internet. However, getting online is essential nowadays.
We need internet access to work and buy goods or services. It's also essential for emergencies, such as when we can't go to a brick-and-mortar educational institution or communicate with our loved ones.
In addition, the internet is essential during non-emergencies. It can help us exercise, engage in recreational activities, participate in government events, and more.
People with low income or resources don't have internet access like the average American. However, the Affordable Connectivity Program and Lifeline Support can close the inequality gap in electronic and information technology usage.
Let's explore the available programs providing cheap internet for SNAP recipients and get access to this invaluable resource today!