Legislation Provides Support to Workers Who Have Been Laid Off or Furloughed
Aids Workers, Families That Need Broadband to Access Health Care, Education or Other Services
Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and 26 Senate Democrats introduced the Emergency Broadband Connections Act to ensure that millions of Americans can access essential broadband connections in the middle of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
This legislation would provide a $50/month benefit to workers who have been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, along with a range of other assistance to ensure families can access critical online services. Broadband connections are essential for Americans seeking new jobs and for accessing school, health care, and other government services.
“The pandemic has forced more families to rely on broadband to work, learn, and connect remotely than ever before,” said Bennet. “The Emergency Broadband Connections Act will help ensure that the families most affected by the economic crisis don’t lose broadband access when they need it most.”
The bill would fill an essential need as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s voluntary Keep Americans Connected pledge from internet service providers to help consumers continue to access internet service during the pandemic, ends this week.
The legislation parallels provisions of the House HEROES Act, and the Emergency Broadband Connections Act by U.S. Representative Marc Veasey (D-Texas).
In the wake of the pandemic, Bennet has taken several steps to help close the digital divide. In May, Bennet introduced the Emergency Educational Connections Act to help students access mobile hotspots and Wi-Fi enabled devices during the pandemic. Bennet also wrote to Congressional leaders urging additional funding to deploy high-speed broadband in areas currently without access in future relief legislation. Bennet called on the FCC to coordinate with other federal agencies to ensure that the millions of Americans newly eligible for SNAP or Medicaid due to the pandemic are also informed of their eligibility for the Lifeline program, which offers discounted internet access for low-income Americans. In March, Bennet also wrote to the FCC to ensure Americans are not disconnected from the Lifeline program during the crisis and called on the country’s top internet companies to keep families connected and to waive data caps and overage fees until the pandemic has abated.
In addition to Bennet, the bill is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D- Md.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).