Alabama families waiting for vouchers to cover internet service should find them in their mailboxes not later than the end of this week, according to the agency handling the voucher program, called Alabama Broadband Connectivity for Students.
“As of (Sept. 4), all 250,000 letters have been mailed out to families with children enrolled in the National School Lunch Program but it will take a few days for all of them to land in mailboxes,” according to Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Communication Chief Mike Presley. Those 250,000 vouchers should cover up to 450,000 children, as only one voucher was mailed for each eligible family.
Vouchers began being mailed on Aug. 24.
“The staggered mailing was designed to avoid overloading internet service providers and to enable them to take orders by phone without causing long delays on the phone for families calling to place orders.”
The vouchers, good for internet service through Dec. 30, are being made available through a $100 million allocation from federal CARES Act funding. Families who earn less than 185% of the federal poverty level are eligible to redeem the vouchers, estimated to be worth $400 per family.
The voucher can be used to pay for existing service or to connect to new internet service. Every school district in Alabama is offering remote learning as an option for families worried about returning to in-person school. Nearly three dozen school districts are offering only remote learning for now.
“Future mailings will begin as our contractor (CTC Technology and Energy) receives updated lists of newly enrolled families and families who have corrected their mailing address with their local school,” Presley said.
A website, www.abcstudents.org, has been set up to answer questions related to the program. It includes a step-by-step of what families should do to get connected.
The list of eligible students was provided to ADECA by the Alabama State Department of Education and included families who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.
However, a federal program created in 2014 that allows schools or districts with a high percentage of students in poverty to serve free meals to all means some on the list might not meet the income eligibility requirements. State officials are counting on families to be on the honor system and not use the voucher if they don’t meet the requirements.
“The letter will state that by using the voucher, families confirm that they meet the income requirements of the National School Lunch Program,” ADECA spokesperson Josh Carples wrote in an email to AL.com in August. “Families with incomes exceeding that limit will be instructed to destroy the voucher and not redeem it.”
ADECA reviewed proposals from 40 internet providers and selected 35 who met requirements. The minimum capability, according to information on the website, must be able to run “at least two simultaneous virtual classroom sessions, using such applications as Zoom or Google Classroom.” The agency provided the following list of participating providers to AL.com:
- Ardmore Telephone Company
- Cable One, Inc. d/b/a Sparklight
- Camelia Communications (Hayneville Fiber Transport)
- Central Alabama Electric Cooperative
- Century Link
- Charter Communications (Spectrum)
- Community Cable and Broadband, LLC
- R.M. Greene (CTV Beam, Cable TV of East Alabama)
- Cyber Broadband, Inc.
- Demopolis CATV Co., Inc.
- Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative, Inc.
- Fort Code, Inc. (Weiss Internet)
- Hayneville Telephone, Inc.
- JTM Broadband
- Mediacom Southeast LLC
- Millry Communications, Inc.
- Mon-Cre Telephone Cooperative
- National Telephone of Alabama
- New Hope Telephone Cooperative
- North Alabama Electric Cooperative
- Northland Cable Television, Inc.
- OTELCO (Blountsville Telephone LLC, Brindle Mountain LLC, Hopper Telecommunication LLC, Otelco Telephone LLC)
- Pine Belt Broadcasting, L.L.C.
- Pine Belt Cellular, Inc.
- Pine Belt Telephone Company, Inc
- Riviera (The Utilities Board of Foley/d/b/a Riviera Utilities)
- Roanoke Telephone Company, Inc.
- The Electric Power Board of the City of Scottsboro, Alabama
- Southern Linc (Southern Communications Services, Inc. dba Southern Linc)
- T Mobile
- Tombigbee Communications, LLC.
- Troy Cablevision, Inc.
- Union Springs Telephone Company, Inc.
Original article from https://www.al.com/news/2020/09/alabama-internet-vouchers-are-in-the-mail-state-agency-says.html 9/9/2020