Wyden Sponsors Bill Assuring Broadband for Laid-Off Employees

  Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is sponsoring, with 26 other Senate Democrats, a bill that he hopes will assure online access for people whose income has been impacted by the pandemic.  

The Emergency Broadband Connections Act  would provide a $50 a month benefit to workers who have been laid off or furloughed during , along with a range of other assistance to ensure families can access critical online services. Broadband connections are essential for Americans seeking to get new jobs, and to access school, health care and other government services. 

“There’s every indication the fallout from the coronavirus will drag on for months,” Wyden said. “Our legislation will make sure workers and families in need don’t find themselves stranded offline at the same time they lose a paycheck. It’s critical to bridging the digital divide, and helping Americans get back to work and school as soon as possible.”  

“Online access is a lifeblood for families right now – connecting them with loved ones, employment resources their children’s teachers, even remote healthcare providers. We should be taking every precaution to ensure that workers who have been laid off or furloughed are able to stay connected when they need access to those resources most,” Blumenthal said. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the digital divide in America, including the more than 14 million estimated households—including more than 52,000 Hawaii households—that don’t have any internet. As workers have shifted to telework and students are distance learning, it is critical that we get these households connected,” Senator Hirono said. “The Emergency Broadband Connections Act seeks to close this digital divide by providing internet-connected devices and broadband access to those in need, even as social distancing continues.” 

“The economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of working families and created uncertainty for their futures,” said Senator Schumer. “This legislation will help provide essential resources to workers who have lost their jobs and ensure that a lack of internet won’t make their road to recovery more difficult.” 

Wyden says the bill would fill an essential need as the FCC’s voluntary Keep Americans Connected pledge by internet service providers to help consumers continue to access internet service during the pandemic, ends this week. 

The legislation parallels provisions of the House HEROES Act, and the Emergency Broadband Connections Act by Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas. 

Read the full bill text here and a summary here. 

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