CAPITOL REPORT: REPRESENTATIVE PATRICIA PIKE

Helping Missourians Afford the Cost of Broadband

Dear Citizens: This is the time of year when legislators participate in a variety of legislative trainings.  My summer has certainly been a busy one, including an appointment by the Speaker of the House to serve on the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee at the Southern Legislative Conference in Nashville, TN mid-July.  Legislators from the southern region of the United States met and discussed a variety of rural issues, including rural hospital needs, challenges for producers and broadband expansion in their states.

In Missouri, the House Special Interim Committee on Broadband Development continues to look at ways to improve broadband internet access across the state and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working to make internet service more affordable for those who can access it. The FCC recently announced a new Emergency Broadband Benefit program to reduce the monthly cost of internet service for eligible households during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An eligible household can get up to $50 per month off an internet bill. The benefit also provides a discount up to $100 per household toward a one-time purchase of a computer, laptop or tablet if the household contributes $10 to $50 toward the purchase through a participating broadband provider.

A household is eligible if one member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:

·        Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid or the FCC’s Lifeline program;

·        Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;

·        Has received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;

·        Has experienced a substantial loss of income through job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020, and the   

household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or

·        Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

Internet service providers can help sign up eligible households until funding for the program runs out. More information about this program can be found through the Missouri Department of Economic Development at ded2.mo.gov/GETCONNECTED or by calling 833-511-0311.

Supporting Firefighters (SB 45). The Missouri General Assembly took a strong stand this session in support of the men and women who put their lives on the line each day as firefighters. Lawmakers approved legislation that creates a fund to provide relief to firefighters who develop cancer while on the job.

The bill allows three or more political subdivisions to come together to create a “Voluntary Firefighter Cancer Benefits Pool”. The pool would then be allowed to provide payments to individuals who develop cancer as a result of their work as a firefighter. Inclusion in the pool is voluntary, and not mandatory.

Under the act, any political subdivision can make contributions to the pool. The pool may also accept or apply for grants or donations from private or public sources.

Supporters say this is a way to support the men and women who receive little compensation as they put their lives on the line to serve Missouri communities. They note there is a higher risk of more than a dozen different types of cancer for those who have been exposed to burning chemical compounds. The benefits pool will help firefighters who develop cancer to get the care and treatment they need.

For more information, contact Representative Patricia Pike at [email protected] or call 573-751-5388.

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