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NTIA to Let Nursing Home Residents Get Coupons

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, charged with execution of the government’s DTV converter box coupon program, has been working for months to try to get information about the DTV transition to America’s elderly, seen as especially likely to end up with darkened sets after the full-power analog TV.

One problem: Seniors living in nursing homes don’t qualify for the $40 coupons because they don’t live in what the Census Bureau calls “households.” So far, the NTIA has rejected such applications. (Those fortunate enough to own multiple residences, on the other hand, qualify for multiple coupons.)

Thursday, as promised, the NTIA started the process to change the rules, publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register.

Comments are due to the NTIA June 9.

Under the NTIA proposal, nursing home residents would qualify for one $40 coupon apiece. But first, the NTIA has to define and identify qualifying nursing homes. The NTIA also seeks comment on allowing other people, such as nursing home administrators, to assist nursing home residents in obtaining the coupons; now, individuals may apply only on their own behalf.

The NTIA proposal also tackles the issue of those with Post Office box addresses, which have not qualified for the program (except in certain areas where the Post Office does not deliver to the corresponding physical address.) The NTIA proposal would allow P.O. boxes to be used as home addresses if the applicants can prove physical residency some other way, such as with a utility bill.