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Democratic Senators Call for Boosted Lifeline Assistance Funding to Keep Americans Connected

“As our financial, educational, social, civic, and healthcare needs become more dependent on the internet during this crisis, Congress must commit to ensuring that no one loses connectivity.”

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led a group of 27 senators in calling on Congressional leadership to commit at least $1 billion in funding for the Lifeline program in future coronavirus relief to meet the new connectivity needs of Americans. Since 1985, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Lifeline program has made basic internet and telephone service more affordable for low-income Americans.

“The Coronavirus and resulting public safety measures taken by states, municipalities, and vigilant citizens are a resounding demonstration of the importance of Lifeline and other FCC universal service programs,” the senators wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). “Already, Lifeline provides millions of Americans with essential connections by providing free or discounted broadband and voice services. This meaningful assistance is needed now more than ever. Social distancing, school closures, layoffs, and shelter-in-place rules have spurred a dramatic new reliance on telework, distance education, online employment, and telehealth. No one should have to put their health at risk, lose employment, lose access to education, or face isolation because they cannot afford broadband.”

With tens of millions of Americans now working from home, going to school virtually, and using telehealth services, the senators emphasized this funding is critically needed to improve the program’s level of service, expand choice of eligible broadband providers, and meet the surge of demand. The funding would also allow Lifeline to better advertise and process applications, so that Americans know this program is available to help them stay connected.

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Gary Peters (D-MI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Ben Cardin (D-MD).

A copy of the full letter is available here.

Blumenthal has previously called for robust Lifeline and E-Rate assistance program funding to ensure Americans stay connected amid the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, Blumenthal led a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make sure that no eligible American is disconnected from the Lifeline assistance program during the crisis. The full text of that letter is available here. Earlier this month, Blumenthal and 35 Senate colleagues sent a letter to House and Senate leadership requesting $2 billion in E-Rate funding, so all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity if their schools close due to the pandemic. That letter is available here.