Everything You Need to Know About the Lifeline Phone Program
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Technology is a useful and necessary part of life in the modern world. Financially secure families and those receiving government assistance, alike understand the critical need for access to technology and the opportunities it brings. Families on a budget may utilize spaces like libraries during business hours to work on homework or to communicate with employers and family, but after business hours, customers still need access to the outside world. The team at Food-Stamps.org understands this importance, and that customers may not know where to begin with the Lifeline Phone Program, or that there is even such a program available to them.
The Lifeline Phone Program is a program designed by the Federal Communications Commission and managed by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). Designed for low-income households, the Lifeline Phone Program strives to provide phone and/or internet service assistance through participating provider companies. States may provide Lifeline benefits in addition to the allotted federal benefits, so customers should contact participating companies to see any additional benefits provided in their state.
Learn About Requirements
Low-income families with household incomes at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) guidelines are eligible for the Lifeline Phone Program. The government has established calculations for poverty based on household income and the size of the households, and these calculations change annually. Families receiving government assistance like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), tribal assistance or public housing qualify for the Lifeline program. The team at Food-Stamps.org encourages low-income households unsure of their eligibility to apply and confer with service companies.
Applicants must prove eligibility by providing official documentation like photocopies of their benefits cards. If the family qualifies based on income, the members should provide photocopied documentation including but not limited to: tax returns, benefits statements or three months’ worth of recent paycheck stubs. The team at Food-Stamps.org encourages applicants to contact the service provider for a list of valid income documentation.
Learn About Restrictions
The Lifeline Phone Program only allows the use of one Lifeline benefit at a time per household. Households may not receive Lifeline discounts on multiple services, even though broadband-voice packages are available. Phone companies may provide smartphone-to-Lifeline program users, although companies cannot guarantee smartphone availability. Customers should also remember to renew their Lifeline Phone Program eligibility ever year, or confirm with the company renewal approval in case of automatic renewal. Those customers with free service must utilize their Lifeline service every 30 days at least once within that period, otherwise the provider will discontinue the Lifeline service.
The team at Food-Stamps.org knows that customers may be unhappy with their provider’s service, but changing a Lifeline provider is subject to restrictions. Customers who wish to transfer their Lifeline telephone service must wait 60 days and are only permitted to do so once per 60-day period. Those customers with internet service may only switch providers once every 12-month period. However, certain scenarios in which a customer may transfer sooner or more frequently do exist. Those customers who move and those companies that no longer provide Lifeline service or charge late fees higher than the monthly out-of-pocket cost are all situations in which customers may transfer companies.
How to Apply
Customers who wish to apply for Lifeline benefits must contact a participating provider and fill out an application. Applicants should contact state communication departments or phone companies for either an online or a paper application. Any documentation that customers provide through a mailed application (proof of benefits, etc.) must be photocopies, as the company will not return original documentation. Customer should note that if a dependent or member of the household receives government assistance like SNAP, the household is eligible for Lifeline benefits. However, customers should check with their state or provider companies regarding all government assistance programs that qualify their households for Lifeline benefits.
Lifeline customers have rights and responsibilities when participating in the phone service program. Current federal regulations require service providers to provide:
- 500 minutes of talk-time for cell phones.
- A speed of 10/1 Mbps (Megabits per second) and a monthly usage of 150 GB (gigabytes) for broadband internet.
- A mobile data plan with 3G or better speed and a monthly usage of 500 MB (megabytes).
- Hotspot capability for devices on data plans.
Customers, as stated above, are able to switch providers within certain restrictions. If customers have issues with Lifeline, such as unhelpful companies or finding providers, they may contact the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). However, the USAC cannot help customers with Lifeline plan specifics like bill disputes or account add-ons. If customers encounter issues that cannot be resolved with the companies, fraudulent companies or customers, the team at Food-Stamps.org urges customers to contact the FCC or the USAC.
Customers should also keep their Lifeline providers up-to-date when changes in the household occur. Such events include income adjustments, the amount of household members, a change of address or Lifeline ineligibility. Some states or providers may assist customers no longer eligible for Lifeline assistance, so customers should make sure to inquire about assistance.