(DailyTreasure.com) – Where having a cell phone was once considered a luxury, it’s now almost a necessity. A great number of households and businesses have gotten rid of landlines and payphones, leaving those who need to be connected with little choice but to have some sort of cell phone in order to stay connected. While the myriad of plans and carriers available may make it seem easy, those on a limited budget, or with sporadic income, know just how hard it can be to keep a cell phone line turned on.
Using the Lifeline Program to Stay Connected
Formally known as Lifeline Support for Affordable Communications, the Lifeline program is run by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and administered by the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC). The program partners with communication companies to make phone, internet, and bundled services more affordable and accessible to lower income families.
Once approved to be a part of the program, Lifeline will allow for a discount of up to $9.95 per month on services with eligible carriers. Those who live on Tribal lands may earn a discount of up to $34.25 per month.
Qualifying for the Lifeline Program
There are several criteria one must meet in order to qualify for discounts through the Lifeline program. They include, but aren’t necessarily limited to:
- An income level that matches or is below 135% of the established federal poverty line
- Already participating in another government program, like SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, or certain Veterans or Tribal programs
- There are no other Lifeline subscribers in your household
Those who do qualify to participate must recertify each year in order to continue receiving discounts.
How to Determine Eligibility
The Lifeline program has a National Verifier system online. The system is used to determine eligibility and for the annual recertification process.
You can also apply to the program by calling (800) 234-9473 or emailing [email protected]. These methods of contact are to request a paper application in the mail.
How to Get a FREE Phone
While the Lifeline program itself does not provide free phones, carriers competing for business are often very willing to give out free technology if you are willing to contract with them directly.
Some of the most popular phone carriers known to offer free phones include:
- Safelink Wireless – This carrier has accessible plans that tend to include unlimited calls and text as well as up to 25 GB per month of high-speed data.
- Assurance Wireless – Their plans typically include unlimited talk and text as well as unlimited data.
- True Wireless – This carrier typically offers unlimited service as well as a LTE Android phone.
- TruConnect – This carrier offers free talk and text, unlimited wireless internet, and up to 14GB of data. Depending on your income level and other benefits you receive, you may even get discounted access to Amazon Prime.
These are just a few of the plans available. Each has their own eligibility criteria that must be met in order to obtain a free phone, but all are known for participating in the Lifeline program as well.
If none of these companies are available near you, you can use the USAC search function to find companies that participate in both the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs. Start by entering your zip code and you’ll be paired with the closest options.
Need Additional Assistance?
Those with income levels that match Lifeline criteria often need assistance in other areas. If you know someone struggling, consider looking into some of the other federal assistance programs designed to help Americans in their times of need. They include, but aren’t limited to:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Social Security’s 3 Main Programs
- Section 8 Housing Programs
Don’t let the cost of a cell phone hold you back from staying connected with family, friends, and education or employment opportunities. Give the Lifeline program a shot. You may be surprised at how much help is actually out there!
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