Phone bills can be awfully expensive. And when you’re not making a lot of money or are living on a fixed income, phone service and other utilities can take a sizeable chunk out of your budget each month.
But a government benefit program called Lifeline can help low-income individuals and families save money on those costly phone bills.
Lifeline is a federal assistance program that provides discounts on monthly telephone service for eligible consumers. The goal is to ensure that low-income households have phone access to stay connected to various essentials, such as 911 service, family members and job opportunities.
The federal Universal Service Fund supports Lifeline.
The Lifeline program helps low-income households get landline or wireless telephone service by providing discounts that average $9.25 a month on one basic phone service. In some states, the discounts can be more.
Lifeline is available in every state in the U.S. as well as Washington D.C. and on Tribal lands and U.S. territories too.
Eligibility Criteria for Lifeline
In order to enroll in Lifeline, you must demonstrate your eligibility by showing proof of income or participation in a qualifying program.
To be eligible, your household income must be at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines.
Alternatively, you are deemed eligible for Lifeline if you participate in one of the following assistance programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP);
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8);
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP);
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF);
- National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program;
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance;
- Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF);
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR);
- Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met); or
- State assistance programs (if applicable).
The Lifeline service is a non-transferable benefit. So it’s important to realize that you can’t transfer their service (or give your Lifeline-supported phone) to any other individual.
You may also have to re-certify annually that you are eligible for Lifeline.
Here’s the information that the government will need when you sign up for Lifeline:
- Name and address information – If you don’t have a permanent residential address, you must provide a temporary address, which cannot be a P.O. Box. If a you are living at a temporary address, the telephone service provider or state agency may require confirmation of the address;
- Date of birth;
- The last 4 digits of your Social Security Number
Once you get Lifeline, you must notify Lifeline within 30 days if you move, or if you are no longer eligible for the service.
To enroll in Lifeline, just apply through your local telephone company or designated state agency. To locate a Lifeline provider in your state go to www.lifelinesupport.org.
For more information about Lifeline, visit the Universal Service Administrative Company’s website, call USAC’s toll-free number (1-888-641-8722), call the FCC’s toll-free customer service number (1-888-CALL-FCC), or contact your local telephone company.