NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – In order to use federal COVID-19 relief funding to better connect the region, Heartland Forward has partnered with several regional and national organizations to extend internet discounts to eligible households across the state.

According to a press release, the nonprofit is now working with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the Ayers Foundation and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The program itself utilizes the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which routes federal COVID-19 funding into direct discounts on internet bills up to $50 a month and laptop, computer or tablet purchases up to $100.

The release states that over 1.2 million Tennesseans remain without internet service, with 36 percent of children K-12 being affected. The release also cited the increased difficulty that low-income families faced in paying internet bills over the pandemic.

$3.2 billion has been allocated to the program, and Heartland Forward said that discount payments will continue until either funds dry up or the end to the pandemic emergency has been declared.

“While the federal government is making a major investment to close the internet affordability gap in the wake of the pandemic, it will take a robust and coordinated effort to reach eligible families, so they know about this opportunity to get connected,” said Angie Cooper, chief program officer for Heartland Forward. “We are eager to contribute to the success of the Emergency Broadband Benefit in Tennessee in the near-term and help make the case for a long-term affordability solution in our country.”

Those interested in receiving the benefit can call (833) 511-0311 or click here.