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Wyden intros bill to provide $50-a-month broadband benefit for laid-off workers

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., introduced a bill Monday to ensure that millions of Americans can access essential broadband access in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Emergency Broadband Connections Act – sponsored by 26 Senate Democrats –  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 to get new jobs, and to access school, health care and other government services.

“There’s every indication the fallout from the coronavirus will drag on for months,” Wyden said. “Our legislation will make sure workers and families in need don’t find themselves stranded offline at the same time they lose a paycheck. It’s critical to bridging the digital divide, and helping Americans get back to work and school as soon as possible.” 

“Online access is a lifeblood for families right now – connecting them with loved ones, employment resources their children’s teachers, even remote healthcare providers. We should be taking every precaution to ensure that workers who have been laid off or furloughed are able to stay connected when they need access to those resources most,” Blumenthal said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the digital divide in America, including the more than 14 million estimated households—including more than 52,000 Hawaii households—that don’t have any internet. As workers have shifted to telework and students are distance learning, it is critical that we get these households connected,” Senator Hirono said. “The Emergency Broadband Connections Act seeks to close this digital divide by providing internet-connected devices and broadband access to those in need, even as social distancing continues.”

“The economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of working families and created uncertainty for their futures,” said Senator Schumer. “This legislation will help provide essential resources to workers who have lost their jobs and ensure that a lack of internet won’t make their road to recovery more difficult.”

The bill would fill an essential need as the FCC’s voluntary Keep Americans Connected pledge by 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 Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas.

The bill is also cosponsored by Sens. 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-Wisc., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., 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.

Read the full bill text here and a summary here.

The bill is endorsed by a broad coalition of advocacy groups – See a full list of supportive statements here.

  • Access Now
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • Asians Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
  • Breakthrough Central Texas
  • Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)
  • Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
  • Center for Rural Strategies
  • Citizens for Educational Excellence
  • Chemeketa Community College
  • Child Welfare League of America (CWLA)
  • Coastal Compass Education and Career Resource Center
  • Common Cause
  • Communications Workers of America (CWA)
  • Consumer Reports
  • Education to Employment Partners
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
  • Engine
  • Free Press Action
  • Gigi Sohn, Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy, Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 
  • Greater Spokane Inc. (GSI)
  • Higher Learning Advocates
  • Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice
  • Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP)
  • Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • LeadMN - College Students Connecting for Change
  • Nashville State Community College Foundation
  • National Association of College and University Business Officers
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • National Consumer Law Center (NCLC)
  • National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC)
  • New America
  • Northwestern Health Sciences University
  • Open Technology Institute (OTI)
  • Oregon Alliance of Independent Colleges & Universities
  • Oregon League of Cities
  • Public Knowledge
  • Rebuilding America’s Middle Class (RAMC)
  • Reed College
  • Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO)
  • The Graduate! Network
  • United Church of Christ, OC Inc.
  • Young Invincibles
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