Most of us can’t imagine our lives without a computer. But let’s try for a second. How would we work, access digital classrooms, browse the internet, stream videos, use online services, stay connected to our loved ones, and contact healthcare and other service providers, especially in times of crisis?
While many households can afford to buy a computer, people in need don’t have the means to do so. Luckily, there are some ways to get free computers for low-income families and in this article, you will learn all about this important issue.
Is it Possible to Get Free Computers for Low-income Families
Having a computer, especially one that can access the internet, comes with a long list of undeniable benefits. All of this is great for people who can easily afford to purchase such a device. But what about the people who have a very low income and don’t have the means to purchase a computer?
Luckily, there are certain government-funded programs, non-profit organizations, charities, and companies that are very much aware of the issue and are doing their best to fix the digital divide and ensure that every person has an equal opportunity in life. These institutions offer free computers for low-income families. Let’s find out more about these options in the following sections.
Government-funded Programs That Provide Free Computers for Low-income Families
There is only one government-funded and FCC-managed assistance program that offers free computers for low-income families. It is a relatively new program that was created during the pandemic. It is called the Affordable Connectivity Program or ACP.
This aid program offers discounts on monthly internet services and a one-time discount of up to $100 on an internet-connected device, such as a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. However, according to government rules, you must pay a mandatory co-pay of at least $10 and no more than $50 to obtain the device. As such, ACP computers are not completely free of charge, but it’s close enough!
In addition to the Affordable Connectivity Program, there are also many other government assistance programs, such as SNAP, SSI, Medicaid, etc. These programs don’t offer free computers directly (instead, they cover food, supplies, and medications), however, participating in any of these programs may automatically qualify you to receive a free or discounted computer through a non-profit organization or a charity.
How to Get Free Computers for Low-income Families Through the Government
To receive a free or discounted computer through the government’s ACP program, you will be required to follow a very strict and detailed process.
1. You have to make sure that you qualify for the program
To become an ACP subscriber, you must be at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor, the only applicant in your household (as the benefit is limited to one person per eligible household), and a resident of one of the states where the selected ACP provider offers its services.
In addition, you must meet at least one of the following FCC-determined eligibility criteria:
- Your annual household income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.
- You or any other member of your household participate in any of the following government assistance programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Head Start (only households meeting the income qualifying standard)
- Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF)
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
- Your household received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year.
2. You must be able to prove your eligibility
To prove your eligibility, you will be required to provide a copy of a valid official document that verifies any one of the eligibility criteria listed above (household income, program participation, reception of a Pell Grant). Additionally, you may be asked to verify any of your personal information, such as your name, age, address, Social Security Number, emancipation (if you are an emancipated minor), etc.
3. You must apply for the ACP program.
There are three ways to apply for the ACP program – through the National Verifier online, through the National Verifier via mail, or directly through your selected ACP provider (the company that receives ACP funds from the government and uses those funds to provide customers with discounts on monthly internet services and/or connected devices).
To apply online, visit nv.fcc.gov/lifeline/?id=nv_flow&ebbp=true&awsl=link-from-how-to-apply and fill out the application form by providing all the required information and proof documentation. If you decide to use this application method, you can expect to receive immediate approval.
To apply via mail, you must print out an application at affordableconnectivity.gov/wp-content/uploads/ACP-Application-Form-English.pdf, print out a Household Worksheet (optional but highly recommended) at affordableconnectivity.gov/wp-content/uploads/lifeline/images/ACP-Household-Worksheet-English.pdf, complete the forms, add physical copies of proof documents, and send the package to ACP Support Center, PO Box 7081, London, KY 40742.
To apply directly through an ACP provider, you must find a provider that offers free computers for low-income families through the government assistance program. You can use the USAC’s tool to find an ACP company near you at affordableconnectivity.gov/companies-near-me. However, we must warn you that most ACP companies only offer discounts on monthly internet services or tablets. ACP companies that offer free computers for low-income families, on the other hand, are hard to find.
When you find a provider that best fits your needs, make sure to contact the company or find its application form or instructions online. Fill out and submit the form to enroll. If approved, you will be notified via email or another provided contact method.
See the list of ACP providers that currently offer free computers for low-income families below.
Which ACP Providers Offer Free Computers and How to Apply
Currently, there are only two ACP companies that offer free computers for low-income families – PCs for People and Human-I-T.
PCs for People
PCs for People is a non-profit that has a simple yet grand mission – to fix the digital divide by providing low-income people with basic internet services and devices. This company offers high-quality refurbished laptops and desktop computers, accessories, and broadband services to eligible applicants. Only people who qualify for the ACP program can apply.
To enroll, visit acp.pcsrefurbished.com/acp. Review and accept the company’s terms and continue to fill out their digital application form. Follow the on-screen prompts to provide all the required information and documentation.
If your application gets accepted, you will receive a discount on internet services and a $100 discount on a laptop or desktop computer.
This is another on-profit company that is striving to ensure that everyone has access to basic internet services and devices. It offers hotspots and a discounted Chromebook laptop at a low price of $20 to $50 through its participation in the Affordable Connectivity Program. To participate, you must qualify for the government assistance program.
You can apply online. To do so, simply visit human-i-t.org/acp, press ‘Sign up now’, fill out the provided application form, and submit it at the end. Alternatively, you can sign up by phone at (562) 372-6925.
Non-profit Organizations and Charities That Provide Free Computers for Low-income Families
In addition to the mentioned ACP providers, there are also some non-profit organizations and charities that offer free computers for low-income families. See the list of those institutions and learn how to apply below.
PCs for People and Human-I-T
Not only do these two companies offer free computers through their ACP benefits, but they also offer them to other eligible customers. An applicant is considered eligible if they have a low income or participate in another government assistance program, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Tribal programs, etc. See each company’s application process in the previous section.
This organization provides computers (desktops and laptops) for children from low-income families, as well as seniors and people with disabilities. To be accepted, you will have to prove your low income, age, and/or disability.
Computers With Causes
The goal of this organization is to teach people about the power of giving and help people in need. They accept computers in good working conditions from individuals and companies and donate them to people in need. To get accepted, you will be required to prove that you are unable to afford a device. The company mostly focuses on students, parents, teachers, seniors, people in shelters, the disabled, and other non-profits.
Sign up online at computerswithcauses.org/application by completing the form. If approved, you will be notified.
Everyone On is striving to connect low-income families with affordable internet service and device providers and digital literacy training companies near them. The organization does not provide services and devices on its own, therefore, you must meet each individual’s requirements to receive the benefits. People who have a low income, are unemployed, or participate in any government assistance programs usually qualify.
Enroll by visiting everyoneon.org/lowcost-offers, choosing a provider, and following the provided links to fill out a provider’s form.
Freecycle collects used computers in good working condition and distributes them to individuals and families in need. To get approved, you will have to show that you don’t have the funds needed to buy a computer.
To begin the application process, go to freecycle.org/find-towns and find a board in your area. Ask if someone is looking to donate a computer.
Komputers for Kids
This organization offers used and refurbished computers for children from low-income families. The company collaborates with volunteers who find and refurbish the devices. During the application process, you will have to prove your low income or show that you are in need of a device but you are unable to buy it.
Start the application process by visiting komputers4rkids.com and following the on-screen prompts.
Microsoft Registered Refurbishers
Microsoft is a huge computer software brand. However, they also collect used computers from individuals and companies, refurbish them, and donate them to people in need. To receive a device, you will have to prove your low income.
Learn more and apply at devicepartner.microsoft.com/en-us/communications/comm-microsoft-refurbisher-programs.
Smartriverside provides free computers for low-income families and individuals, as well as free computer learning classes. To receive the benefits, you must show that you can’t afford to purchase a device. The exact requirements vary by state.
The On It Foundation
This foundation provides free computers to children from low-income families that visit grades K to 12. To enroll, you must come from a low-income family, be in the right grade, attend a public school, and participate in the Free or Reduced Lunch Program.
Start the application process by contacting the company at The On It Foundation, ATTN: Free
Computer Application. 18520 NW 67th Avenue Ste. 186, Miami FL 33015. Describe your situation in detail and provide all the required information.
This organization collaborates with computer companies, which provide them with free laptops. These devices are then distributed to people in need.
To apply, contact the company at withcauses.org/askforhelp.htm.
World Computer Exchange
World Computer Exchange is an organization that collaborates with non-profits, schools, libraries, and other institutions to distribute devices to people in need. You simply must prove your low-income status.
Apply by filling out the application at worldcomputerexchange.org/get-involved/get-computers.
Other Options for Obtaining a Low-cost or Free Computer
In addition to the options mentioned above, there are some ways to receive a low-cost or free computer:
- You can receive an affordable or free computer from a company that strives to help people in need, such as Computer Technology Assistance Corps, Interconnection, St Vincent de Paul, The One Laptop Per Child Foundation, The Alliance for Technology Refurbishing And Reuse, The Open Education Database, The Goodwill organization, United Way, etc.
- You can opt for a much cheaper refurbished or used option. Check online marketplaces, such as Craigslist, eBay, Amazon, Facebook Market, etc.
- You can try your luck at a school or college.
- Ask your local libraries if they have any used computers.
- Contact a church or a local charity.
The Benefits of Having a Computer for Low-income Families
People who don’t have a computer are highly deprived of so many opportunities in life. As such, for a person in need, receiving a free computer can be quite literally life-saving. Let’s take a closer look at the unparalleled benefits of having a computer.
- First of all, nowadays, we all need a computer for work. You may have a computer in your office, however, as for many people work doesn’t end when you get home, you probably also need a computer at home. Only by having a computer can you read work-related emails and other reading materials, write papers, speeches, articles, emails, or whatever your job may require you to write, research the materials needed to finish a project successfully, access virtual workplaces, collaborate with colleagues after hours, etc. Moreover, if you currently don’t have a job, you will definitely need to have a computer to find one. There are so many job-seeking platforms available online and companies advertise job opportunities on the internet as well.
- Traditionally, all of the schooling was done in schools. However, now, many elementary schools, high schools, and colleges offer many of their services online. Moreover, during the pandemic, schooling was only possible online through a computer. Having a computer with an internet connection enables students to access virtual classrooms, read study materials (ebooks, articles, studies, etc.), write assignments, and even take exams.
- Computers enable us to obtain practical information. They enable us to organize and browse our own files, find recipes and advice online, watch tutorials, learn about virtually anything, check the weather, make travel arrangements, get useful ideas, and much more.
- Computers are a great entertainment source. We can watch Netflix and other streaming services, play music, listen to our favorite podcasts, play video games, etc.
- During the pandemic when we were forced to become socially isolated, we have all felt the sharp pain of loneliness. Loneliness is one of the main causes of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. And having an internet-connected device, such as a computer, may help you tackle this negative emotion and improve social connections. Computers enable us to stay connected to our loved ones, communicate with friends, chat, call, make video calls, and ultimately, even contact a health or mental health professional. Being able to communicate with others (even if from afar) makes us feel connected, which is vital for our well-being. After all, a computer also enables you to join a dating app and thus potentially find the love of your life.
- Having a computer enables you to store huge amounts of personal information, including ebooks, photos, videos, documents, songs, movies, apps, games, and much more. It also helps you sort your information, organize it, and facilitate the search process.