Kansas City residents can get money to help pay for internet access. Here's what to know
Kansas City residents can qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program if they make less than twice the federal poverty level (about $60,000 for a family of four), if someone in the household is a Pell Grant recipient or receives assistance like SNAP or Medicaid.
Kansas City area residents can get up to $30 off their internet bills by enrolling in the Affordable Connectivity Program, a partnership involving the Federal Communication Commission, or FCC, and local nonprofits.
The FCC contracted with local nonprofit KC Digital Drive to offer a subsidy for monthly home internet bills under a program that was originally part of the federal COVID-19 response legislation.
Last year, it transitioned to the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and began doing outreach in the fall to encourage people to enroll. KC Digital Drive submitted a grant application to the FCC last fall and was awarded a grant this spring.
There are many ways a Kansas City resident can be eligible for this program.
For example, they can qualify if they make less than twice the federal poverty level (about $60,000 for a family of four). They can also qualify is someone in the household is a Pell Grant recipient or if anyone in the household receives assistance like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Medicaid or free and reduced lunch at school.
“I think there are a lot of people that qualify for this program that may not necessarily think they do if they just see it’s targeted for low-income households,” said Aaron Deacon, managing director of KC Digital Drive.
The discounts are made possible through $14 billion in federal funding set aside for this program. Under the program, internet access effectively will be free for people who already use low-cost internet providers.
Applicants must supply some form of income documentation, Deacon said, which can range from a pay stub or tax return to proof of enrollment in programs like Medicaid.
The partnership is meant to reduce the barriers to broadband for Kansas City residents, which will help more people access the internet for tasks like school, work and telehealth appointments.
“If you’re having to choose between putting food on the table or having your home internet, that may not be an easy choice to make,” Deacon said. “You don’t want the fact that you need food to be a barrier to having that kind of comfort zone with digital life.”
Having internet access at home also allows people to do things that they can’t always do on their smartphone, Deacon said. Users can develop workforce skills they can take outside of their house and into the office, and it also helps people simply learn how to navigate a computer and the internet.
Refugees and immigrants can also take advantage of this initiative, Deacon said. Unlike other government programs, participants do not have to be a U.S. citizen, and taking part in this program will not negatively affect someone if they apply for citizenship in the future.
KC Digital Drive also is coordinating with other grantees to improve digital equity and internet access in more rural parts of Kansas and Missouri.
“The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) provides critical support for Kansas families in both rural and urban areas to access essential digital tools,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said in a press release on the launch of the ACP. “I applaud KC Digital Drive’s efforts to raise awareness and support eligible Kansans along their path to connectivity.”
For now, the main priority is raising awareness of the ACP and encouraging as many Kansas and Missouri residents to take advantage of it as possible, Deacon said.
“There’s a limited pot of money, at least right now,” he said. “If everyone in the Kansas City area who is already signed up right now took advantage of this program for a year, that’d be $30 million into the local economy and into those people’s household, line-item budgets for a year. So we want to make sure that we get as much of that money here in Kansas City.”
More information on the Affordable Connectivity Program and how to apply can be found at getacptoday.org.