Q: I lost my job during the pandemic. To save money, we have been considering eliminating our internet service. Are there any programs available to help pay for internet?
Answer: Recently, The Federal Communications Commission announced the Emergency Broadband Benefit program geared to help families having difficulty paying for internet service during the pandemic. The Emergency Broadband Benefit provides discounts for internet service of up to $50 per month Some of the internet providers accepting this benefit in North Carolina include AT&T, CenturyLink, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellar, and Verizon. For a complete list and to see providers in other states visit fcc.gov/emergency-broadband-benefit-providers.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household. The funds for this deduction will be provided directly to the approved providers each month from the Emergency Broadband Benefit program and not directly to families receiving the benefits. This assistance is a limited time program to help eligible families during the pandemic. The program will end once the available funds are depleted or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic. The approved providers will notify participating families when the program concludes.
People who are interested in this program must meet certain criteria to be eligible for the program. A household may be qualified if they are at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or if they participate in certain programs such as SNAP, Medicaid or Lifeline. In addition, families may qualify if there has been a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since Feb. 29, 2020 and the household has a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single tax filers and $198,000 for joint filers. See fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit for a full listing of qualifying criteria.
You can contact your broadband carrier directly and ask about the application process. If you would like to apply online visit GetEmergencyBroadband.org. Paper applications are also available by calling 833-511-0311. For additional information on the Emergency Broadband Benefit program check out the frequently asked consumer questions (fcc.gov/consumer-faq-emergency-broadband-benefit).
Q: How do I reduce my risks of having a stroke?
Answer: Unfortunately, strokes are all too common medical emergencies — especially as we age. May is National Stroke Awareness month, so now is the perfect time to begin taking steps to learn more about them and how to prevent them. A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when a blockage stops the flow of blood to the brain (ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts (hemorrhagic stroke). Additionally, there are mini-strokes (transient ischemic attacks or TIAs) that result from restrictions to blood flow but whose effects are generally only temporary.
Recognizing the signs of a stroke early is important so that medical treatment can begin right away. Immediate medical care may reduce long term effects of a stroke and even prevent death. The American Stroke Association has created an easy way to remember the warning signs with the acronym FAST, with each letter calling out key signs of a possible stroke.
F stands for face drooping — is one side of a person’s face drooping?
A stands for arm weakness — can the person raise both arms or does one arm drift downward?
S represents speech difficulty — is the person’s speech slurred?
T stands for time to call — call 911 immediately if any of the signs of stroke are noticed.
In addition to the warning signs of FAST, other symptoms to watch for are sudden numbness, confusion, any trouble seeing or walking and the onset of a severe headache. If you are unsure if you or someone you know is having a stroke always seek medical attention.
Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to lower your chance of having a stroke. First, avoid excess salt in your diet. Extra sodium can contribute to high blood pressure which is a major cause of stroke. Also, decreasing your intake of fatty foods is important. Particularly, watch out for foods that are high in trans-fats which are used in many prepackaged foods to keep food fresher, longer. The amount of trans-fat is generally included on the nutrition label information for the product. Regular exercise as part of your daily routine can be key in reducing your risk of stroke as well. This can include simple steps such as taking a brisk walk or occasionally taking the stairs instead of using an elevator. If you are a smoker, strongly consider stopping or at least reducing your smoking habit.
Changing long-term eating habits and activity levels is not always easy but it’s possible. Scheduling an appointment with your physician to understand your current health status and come up with a plan to make changes is a great place to start. Visit the American Stroke Association (www.stroke.org) for more information about strokes and steps to take to help prevent them.
AgeWise is a weekly column compiled by staff of Senior Services Inc., a nonprofit organization in Winston-Salem. If you have a question, email email@example.com or mail to Senior Services, 2895 Shorefair Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27105.