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'If we can’t afford it we can’t get it': New federal program to provide low-cost internet for millions of families

More than 40 million Americans are eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which could lead to $30 a month or less internet bills.

SAN ANTONIO — Mary Ann Resendez and her husband take care of five children in San Antonio, so having reliable in-home internet access is essential for daily living.

But staying connected is a challenge for millions of Americans.

“There’s so many things with the internet and to be able to afford it, would be even better,” Resendez said. “If we can’t afford it we can’t get it so either we just do without and stick with what we’re able to use which is our phone.”

The White House rolled out a solution this week for more than 40 million eligible Americans through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

The program provides qualified households $30 per month off their internet bills. ACP also involves the partnership of 20 leading internet providers, which are offering internet plans for no more than $30 per month.

Some families may be eligible for free high-speed internet if they pair their ACP benefit with one of the plans.

Qualifications range from various income levels such as a family of three making $46,060 a year or a family of 8 making $93,260 annually.

Other way to qualify include being a recipient of SNAP benefits, SSI, veterans benefits and receiving Medicaid.

“To hear President Biden say that that he’s going to implement a program that will bring internet connectivity to everyone that needs it and doesn’t have it is very exciting and actually a long time coming,” said Jo Ana Alvarado, director of innovative technology at the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA).

Alvarado said the pandemic emphasized the need for internet access in the community for work and school life.

SAHA has worked to bridge the digital divide by providing free public Wi-Fi at all of its properties for more than five years.

The goal is to ensure everyone is connected by June or July.

“We’re in a digital economy and everything is going toward needing to be connected, whether it be education, looking for a job, being able to do telehealth from home,” Alvarado said.

As for Resendez, she’s all for the new federal program if it means she can one day achieve her dream of becoming a nurse.

“Right now, I’m a stay at home mom so I do want to go back to school and be able to help my husband provide for my family.”