The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the benefits of social distancing when trying to stem the spread of disease. But it has also led to an increase in feelings of social isolation, especially among older adults.
The $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program was created in 2021 as a temporary federal response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and was designed to make it easier for the public, especially older adults, to reconnect with loved ones by ensuring everyone has access to the internet and connected devices. A connected device such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone with internet access can connect people to family, friends, co-workers and others while allowing them to continue to safely social distance.
EODD Area Agency on Aging wants to help seniors in its seven-county service area take advantage of the EBB program by holding sign-up events across its seven-county service area. EODD will be joined by Assist Wireless to provide internet service plans and smartphones or tablets to eligible seniors who sign up.
Sign-up events will be held from 9-11 a.m. on the following dates and locations:
• Monday, June 14, at the Sallisaw Nutrition Site, 115 W. Redwood, in Sallisaw.
• Tuesday, June 15, at the Tahlequah Nutrition Site, 230 E. First St., in Tahlequah.
• Wednesday, June 16, at the Douglas Nutrition Site, 602 Indianapolis St., in Muskogee.
• Thursday, June 17, at the Wagoner Nutrition Site, 2200 W. Wellington, in Wagoner.
• Friday, June 18, at the Eufaula Nutrition Site, 121 High St., in Eufaula.
• Tuesday, June 22, at the Okmulgee Nutrition Site, 1021 N. Seminole in Okmulgee.
An additional event is tentatively scheduled for 9-11 a.m. Monday, June 21, in Adair County, but details are pending. Watch EODD’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EasternOklahomaDevelopmentDistrict for updates.
The EBB program will provide a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying tribal lands.
Eligible households also can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers if they contribute between $10 and $50 toward the purchase price.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household. The benefits are in the form of a discounted price, not a direct payment to consumers. Providers will be reimbursed by the program for the discounts.
A household is eligible if a member of the household meets one of the criteria below:
• Has an income that is at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid or Lifeline.
• Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year.
• Received a federal Pell Grant during the current award year.
• Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
• Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
EODD Area Agency on Aging, 1012 N. 38th St. in Muskogee, covers residents age 60 and older and their caregivers living in Adair, Cherokee, McIntosh, Muskogee, Okmulgee, Sequoyah and Wagoner counties. They can be reached from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday at (918) 682-7891.