Rep. Abigail Spanberger is leading the effort to ensure the federal government gets Americans without reliable internet service coronavirus relief funding as soon as possible.
Spanberger led a group of 50 lawmakers to urge the Treasury to ensure they are making every effort to reach Americans without reliable access to the internet. The Virginia congresswoman is no stranger to the difficulties people living in rural areas face when it comes to getting high speed internet. Last year, she led a bipartisan effort to expand funding to improve rural broadband connectivity, and passed an amendment to increase government research into who has strong broadband access, and who does not.
To help during the coronavirus pandemic, Congress approved sending “Economic Impact Payments” to eligible citizens. Individuals who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 might still be eligible for the payments if they file a simple return online. However, according to Spanberger’s office, many eligible rural and low-income Americans have trouble filing taxes online because of limited access to the internet.
One way around not having reliable internet in the home is by using it at a local library. But because of the shutdown, most are closed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Spanberger and her colleagues want to see the government continue to reach out to people without reliable internet in any way they can to make sure Americans know when they are eligible and could receive financial help.
“The coronavirus public health emergency has come at a great cost to many Americans, but undoubtedly has had a disproportionate impact on low-income families, seniors, rural communities, and communities of color,” Spanberger wrote in the letter. “We write today urging the Department of the Treasury to redouble its efforts to make Economic Impact Payments available to the most vulnerable populations—including those without access to the internet who cannot file a tax return electronically.”
According to the FCC more than 21 million Americans live without access to high-speed internet and a Pew Research Study found that 50% of non-broadband users cite cost as the reason they don’t have internet at home.