Bipartisan Senate Infrastructure Package Codifies Broadband Benefit for Pell Grant Recipients

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter

The Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure proposal contains a provision that would ensure low-income students retain access to a recently implemented federal broadband benefit.

The provision was tacked onto the chamber’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 69-30, and would make the recently rolled out Emergency Broadband Program benefit program permanent. The program’s extension would maintain eligibility requirements for Pell Grant recipients but would instead provide a $30 subsidy towards purchasing high speed internet, the initial program provided up to $50 per month.

The Department of Education (ED) has previously contacted Pell Grant recipients about the currently available benefit through an email, however some eligible students may not have recognized the correspondence or have been on the lookout for it.

Now that additional changes could be coming to the program it will be important for institutions to keep students up to date on their eligibility.

Currently the program is slated to last until the funding appropriated by Congress runs out or until six months after the pandemic is declared to have ended by the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, whichever happens first. Providers will also be required to notify beneficiaries that the subsidy is winding down.

NASFAA has previously highlighted the benefit program and urges institutions to ensure that their students know about its availability. Additionally NASFAA has urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure that the verification process for the student benefit is as simple as possible.

With the Senate’s approval of the bipartisan infrastructure proposal the bill now heads to the House, which is on recess until September. In the meantime, the Senate now plans to begin the reconciliation process on another infrastructure proposal that will contain additional investments in higher education. Specific spending language for that more wide ranging proposal will be hashed out in the coming months and will likely take up the bulk of Congress’ fall agenda. 

Check out our previous coverage of Congressional spending talks and stay tuned to Today’s News for more details.


Publication Date: 8/11/2021

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