Congresswoman Elaine Luria Introduces Bill to Help Expand Internet Access to Families

September 30, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Elaine Luria introduced the Ensuring Phone and Internet Access for SNAP Recipients Act of 2020. This bipartisan bill would help households that benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to receive relief for phone and internet costs through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Lifeline Program.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, reliable internet access is no longer a luxury, but a crucial piece of infrastructure that people depend on for their jobs and students use to learn,” said Congresswoman Luria. “I am pleased to lead this bipartisan bill, which will help the FCC better target its efforts to expand internet access to families throughout Coastal Virginia and our nation. By making reliable internet more accessible, we can open new work and educational opportunities.”

“Two major issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic remain food insecurity and the digital divide. By law, Virginia SNAP recipients are eligible for reliable access to phone and internet service through the FCC’s lifeline program — but just a fraction of those eligible are enrolled,” said Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (VA-07). “I’m proud to help introduce the Ensuring Phone and Internet Access for SNAP Recipients Act to fix this longstanding issue, and I’d like to thank my fellow Virginian Congresswoman Luria for her leadership in introducing this bill.”

“I am proud to sponsor the Ensuring Phone and Internet Access for SNAP Recipients Act of 2020 which would improve the FCC Lifeline Program and help more Americans get internet access,” said Congressman Denver Riggleman (VA-05).  “Closing the digital divide has been one of my priorities during my time in Congress and this bill will go a long way in closing that divide and providing lifechanging internet access for many Americans.”

The Lifeline Program expands access to phone and broadband services to qualifying low-income consumers. SNAP recipients automatically qualify for this program. According to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), only 15 percent of eligible Virginian households participated in the Lifeline Program. Congresswoman Luria’s bill would require the FCC and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to survey SNAP recipients to learn if they are enrolled in the Lifeline Program. If SNAP recipients are not enrolled in this program, the survey would ask if they would participate in the Lifeline Program. This survey will present a five-year projection on enrollment and will show how the FCC can improve its Lifeline Program’s outreach efforts.  

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Congresswoman Luria has supported efforts to expand broadband access to more Coastal Virginians. In June, she cosponsored the Emergency Educational Connections Act, which would create a special fund through the E-Rate program to assist students who lack reliable internet access. She also recently supported the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act of 2020, which would allow rural electric and telecommunications providers to request an adjustment to their interest rate or loan under the Rural Utilities Service. This would ensure that these providers can continue providing connectivity throughout rural areas.

Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.