Heartland Forward and the League of United Latin American Citizens on Thursday announced they will partner to help Latinos sign up for a Federal Communications Commission broadband benefit program as enrollment lags.
The FCC’s $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program was created to help low-income households pay for broadband services and devices amid the coronavirus pandemic. Roughly $850 million has been disbursed, according to Universal Service Administrative Co. data.
Latino participation in the program is low because there is a general lack of awareness, lack of trust, language barriers, and confusion around the complexity of the enrollment process, LULAC CEO Sindy Benavides said.
Only 65% of Hispanic adults reported having home internet service compared to 80% of white adults, according to a Sept. 8 study by the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
To help enroll more Latinos, LULAC, the country’s oldest and largest Hispanic organization, will partner with Heartland Forward, a think tank focused on kick-starting economic growth in the center of the U.S.
Heartland Forward said it will provide LULAC, a trusted group in Latino communities, $50,000 in grant funding to do on-the-ground outreach and enrollment activities.
“Partnerships such as the one between Heartland Forward and LULAC are crucial to expanding outreach and enrollment efforts, particularly in Latino communities where many still don’t have the home internet access they need,” FCC acting chair
FCC officials and their partners say nonprofits and organizations are best suited to enroll low-income individuals because they are trusted in those communities. However, those groups have tight budgets.
Rosenworcel previously has said the FCC and its partners would be getting the word out faster if Congress had allocated outreach money for agency partners in an omnibus spending package last December.
The EBB program is due to expire either when the funds are exhausted or six months after the Health and Human Services Department declares the end of the pandemic emergency, according to the legislation.
Congress has an opportunity to fund outreach efforts in a Senate infrastructure bill, under review in the House now, that would extend the program indefinitely, Benavides and Heartland Forward chief programs officer Angie Cooper said.
Benavides said she “absolutely expects it to be part of the final infrastructure package.”
Cooper said her group and LULAC are partnering with the government to make sure there would be no gaps in service and no need for households to reapply if the program is made permanent through infrastructure bill funding.