Lifeline Assistance Program
Mobile phones play a central role in modern society. They have changed the way we shop, travel, interact with each other, and even the amenities local government makes available to the public. Communication access is an absolute necessity these days. It’s even more important in day-to-day life than a home computer. Today, cell phones are used to stay in contact with prospective employers, medical professionals, family, and emergency help, making them part of the glue that binds the social fabric together.
So what on earth are you supposed to do if you can’t afford one? Even though the prices have come down over the years, it’s not as if phones, or the corresponding plans offered by U.S. cellular providers, are cheap. Thankfully, there are options out there for people who are struggling with low income and financial issues but still need to be in touch. Here’s a review of some options designed to help you out.
Lifeline Federal “Obama Phone” Program (Free Phones)
The Lifeline Assistance program dubbed the “Obama Phone” due to its rapid expansion during Barack Obama’s presidency is designed to provide affordable communications to low-income Americans. The corresponding plans offer minutes, text, and data.
Fun fact: The “Obama Phone” nickname is just the result of a misleading YouTube video that went viral. Though the program did grow tremendously during the time of the Obama Administration, the first free phone was given out during the Bush Administration, which in turn was a result of a policy signed during the Clinton Administration. Regardless of the origin, this program provides many people with much-needed communication services.
Not everybody qualifies for this program. Only those who are already participating in another state or federal assistance program or with an income that is below a certain limit can avail of this benefit. The process of determining your eligibility is relatively quick and easy, but it’s important to remember that the federal government only sponsors the Obama Phone program. The various state governments implement the program, and the eligibility requirements will differ from state to state to receive free phones.
Downside: Many of the companies that participate in the program were established solely to compete for business within this program, making them smaller, regional companies, rather than major technological players who don’t have to rely on governmental incentives. However, three major cellular providers (Safelink Wireless, ReachOut Wireless, and Assurance Wireless) offer access to this program on an almost-nationwide basis.
It’s not difficult to get your hands on an “Obama phone,” especially if you’re already on a government program like Medicaid or SNAP. For more information, and to find out if you qualify, check out the link at the bottom of this page.
Now let’s look at what the big companies offer:
Verizon Lifeline – Verizon is one of the biggest teleservice providers in the U.S. They offer a federal program known as Lifeline, which provides qualified low-income customers with discounts on their monthly bills, and waives activation fees for subscribers living on Tribal Land.
Downsides: The program itself is available in only certain parts of just four states: Iowa, North Dakota, New York, and Wisconsin. On top of that, only one account per household can avail of the program.
As expected, not everyone is eligible to enroll in the program, and the requirements vary by state, within the four-state coverage area. Applicants are also required to provide documentation that demonstrates financial difficulties and eligibility for the benefits offered by Lifeline benefit.
Fun Facts About These Free Phones
1. Seventy-Six Percent of States Use the Program
Thirty-eight states in the U.S. offer Lifeline Assistance to their underprivileged residents. The growth has blasted since it first started in 2008.
2. Millions of People Have Free Phones
More than 10 million people have been given Lifeline mobile phones since the program’s implementation in 2008. That’s a lot of phones.
3. You Qualify for Government Phone by Qualifying for Government Aid
You read it right! Food stamp recipients and Section 8 persons can qualify for the phone program just because they are eligible for their current programs.
4. Poverty Level Determines Your Qualification
Some states will approve phones for people who have incomes that are 135 percent below the poverty level. Other states such as Florida and New Jersey will approve people who have incomes that are 150 percent below poverty level.
5. People Call It the Obama Phone
Some people refer to the Lifeline phone as an “Obama” phone because it became popular during his reign. However, the program first hit the population while George Bush was president.
6. Aliens Can Get Cell Phones
No, little green men and residents of Mars cannot get these phones. However, people who are not U.S. residents can.
7. A Rich Man is a Supplier
Carlos Slim owns Safelink. He is the richest man in the world.
8. Fraud Plagues the Program
Many people obtain these free phones by fraudulent means, and the FCC is going to take action. Puerto Rico, for example, has more than 200,000 citizens with fraudulent free accounts.
9. Government Internet Is Coming
The government is considering adding free Internet plans to the menu.
10. Program Differs Between States
Most states offer the same plan, which is 250 free voice minutes per month. However, Oklahoma residents pay $2.50 for 250 minutes. Californians pay $1 to get 1,000 minutes, and Alaskans pay $1 for unlimited talk and text.
Bonus: The “Business” Is Expanding
The government expects the program to increase to more than $2 billion over the next few years.
You may be eligible for one of these phones. Complete an application and find out if you can get one today. The program is administered by the FCC. Please use the following link to apply to their program: