New Rules Will Help Make Broadband More Affordable for Low-Income Americans
The Federal Communications Commission today modernized and reformed its Lifeline program to help low income consumers afford access to the 21st Century’s vital communications network: the Internet.
Since 1985, Lifeline has helped make telephone service affordable for low-income Americans. Today, consumers need Internet access for full and meaningful participation in society. Yet 43 percent of nation’s poorest households say they can’t afford modern broadband service.
To help close this digital divide, the Order adopted by the Commission today refocuses Lifeline support on broadband, which will enable low-income Americans to share in the 21st Century opportunities that access to the Internet provides. At the same time, new rules build on recent reforms in the program to combat waste fraud and abuse and increase program efficiency.
For the first time, Lifeline will support stand-alone broadband service as well as bundled voice and data service packages. To spark competitive service options for Lifeline consumers, the rules will unlock the Lifeline broadband marketplace to attract additional providers. And new service standards will ensure that supported services meet modern needs.
The rules significantly strengthen the Commission’s landmark 2012 reforms (http://go.usa.gov/cGykW) of the program by establishing an independent National Eligibility Verifier to confirm subscriber eligibility. At the same time the verifier deters waste, fraud and abuse, it will encourage participation by legitimate providers by removing the burden of eligibility screening.
Finally, a budget mechanism will limit Lifeline's cost to ratepayers. Specifically, the Order:
These and other changes will fully modernize Lifeline to support broadband service and obtain the highest possible value from the expenditure of Universal Service funds.
To learn more about the Lifeline program for low-income Americans, visit https://www.fcc.gov/general/lifeline-program-low-income-consumers.
The Department continues customer service improvement and job creation efforts
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) today opened a new customer service call center in Lancaster County. The call center complements the work completed in the DHS county assistance offices.
“One of our top priorities is improving customer service. This call center is an example of how we’re working to assist more clients throughout the state in a timely manner,” said Secretary Ted Dallas. “The Department is currently answering 93.2% of incoming calls to the Office of Income Maintenance Customer Service Center, which is a dramatic improvement from the 44.6% answered in January 2015. We believe this new center will continue to increase those numbers and provide Pennsylvanians with a quality customer service experience.”
With the creation of the call center, DHS not only enhances customer service efforts, but also aids in sustainable job creation. Employing 130 individuals, the center will be the tenth DHS customer service call center in the state.
“I thank DHS for bringing this important call center to Lancaster because it creates vital job opportunities and benefits our local economy while providing critical services to Pennsylvanians,” said Representative Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster).
The call center serves all existing and future clients living in the state of Pennsylvania through contact by telephone. In order to further address the needs of all Pennsylvanians, the newly opened Lancaster county location will staff bilingual caseworkers to accept calls from Spanish speaking clients.
The call center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 877-395-8930.
Consumers can use the call center for address changes, household member add-ons and removals, income changes, request replacement EBT cards, and case status inquiries.
In 2015, the customer service call center staff answered 1,949,655 calls.
For more information, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.
Multi-faceted initiative will improve access to information on long-term supports and services
The Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Aging (PDA) have collaborated to create PA Link to Community Care. This initiative will enhance Pennsylvanians’ ability to learn about and access a wide variety of long-term supports and services available through federal, state, and county agencies for persons with disabilities and older Pennsylvanians.
“We are committed to serving more people in the community and the IRT and COMPASS improvements are great tools to achieve that goal,” said DHS Secretary Ted Dallas. “Most people prefer to live at home, not in a facility, and we are working hard to help individuals with a disability and older Pennsylvanians to live where they choose and how they choose, just as any of us would want.”
The first public phase of the project was launched March 12, with an online information referral tool (IRT) and improvements to DHS’ COMPASS application. The next phase of the project will be to launch the PA Link to Community Care website, which will further enhance the commonwealth’s efforts to help individuals locate aging, disability, and other long-term care services in their county.
“While our call center presently responds to individual questions about aging and disability services, the PA Link to Community Care website will extend our availability beyond typical office hours and will better support individuals who prefer to do their own research on available long-term services and supports,” said Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne. “Based on the desire of the individual, these efforts further demonstrate our commitment to serve as a highly visible, accessible, and trusted resource for information intended to link persons with disabilities and older Pennsylvanians with the help and support necessary to age in place.”
In the first phase, Pennsylvanians can use the IRT anonymously to input information about themselves, a loved one, or client. The IRT will guide them through a series of questions, then provide a list of resources that are based on the client’s specific needs, in areas such as: intellectual disability, autism, physical disabilities, aging, addiction, mental illness, veterans’ needs, or help paying for prescriptions.
COMPASS is an online application where people can apply for many health and human service programs, such as Medicaid, cash assistance, or Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). With the COMPASS improvements, Pennsylvanians can submit applications for long-term living services and supports or request services for intellectual disability services, autism services, and early intervention services.
Anticipated to be launched this summer, the PA Link to Community Care website will serve as a companion piece, providing flexibility, and additional opportunity for Pennsylvanians to access important information about available long-term services and support programs.
The site will be an extension of our existing PA Link to Aging and Disability Resources call center whereby caregivers, family members, or individuals in need of information currently call in to ask about aging and disability services.
Pennsylvania was one of 21 states to receive federal funding for the initiative. The commonwealth spent the $104 million in federal funds directly on services to help people to remain living in their homes and communities rather than in facilities.
Agencies and individuals can access the IRT/COMPASS application through www.dhs.pa.gov/irt or
www.compass.state.pa.us and the PA Link to Aging and Disability Resources call center at 1-800-753-8827.
With most of today's employers using web-based recruiting to evaluate and hire job applicants, it's more important than ever to ensure that talent acquisition tools are accessible to all job seekers—including those with disabilities. In that spirit, the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) has launched TalentWorks, an online resource for employers and human resources (HR) professionals that helps them make their online job applications and other eRecruiting tools accessible.
“Many people don’t realize that inaccessible technology is preventing people with disabilities from applying for and interviewing for jobs. Employers as a result are unaware of potentially great hires,” said Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu. “TalentWorks shows you how to ensure that your organization’s virtual door is open to everyone, laying the groundwork for a diverse, more inclusive workforce.”
The tool provides general background on accessibility and eRecruiting, as well as practical tip sheets for making online job applications, digital interviews, pre-employment tests, and resume upload programs accessible. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, PEAT fosters collaboration and action around accessible technology in the workplace. For more information, visit PEATworks.org/TalentWorks.