The Lifeline Cell Phone Program May be Able to Provide Assistance | The Resource Assistant

The Lifeline Cell Phone Program May be Able to Provide Assistance

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established the Lifeline Program to provide assistance to low-income consumers.

What Is the Lifeline Program?

The Lifeline program was put in place by the FCC to help make internet and cell phone service affordable for low-income consumers. 

Without these tools, many consumers would fall victim to so-called “digital divide.”  As many as 23 million people lack access to broadband at home. As schools have closed, those without basic home broadband access have struggled to connect students with teachers and schools.  The Lifeline program can help bridge the gap to provide assistance to consumers allowing them access to internet and cell phone service.

How Does the Lifeline Program Work?

In most situations, the Lifeline program provides a monthly discount up to $9.25 on cell phone and internet service for low-income subscribers.  The Tribal Lifeline Program also adds an additional $25 in assistance on your monthly bills.

Lifeline Program Eligibility

To be eligible for the program, you must meet certain requirements:

Income

Income must be at or under 135% of the guidelines for Federal Poverty.  For a family of four, example, the federal poverty guideline is $26,200.  This would mean a family of four with income up to and including $35,370 would qualify.

You will be asked to provide proof of income when applying, such as 3 consecutive paycheck stubs or your most recent tax return.

Federal Assistance Programs

If you are already participating in some federal assistance programs you may also qualify.  These would include programs such as:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
  • Tribal Programs (and live on federally-recognized Tribal lands)

The Lifeline program is open to those in every state, commonwealth, territory, and on Tribal lands.  You can check your eligibility on the Lifeline Support website.

Applying for Lifeline Program Assistance

To apply for assistance from the Lifeline Program, you will need to use the National Verifier application system.  This was set up as a central clearinghouse by the FCC and the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which administers the program.

Not all states are set up to use the National Verifier system.  You can check if your state uses the National Verifier application system on the USAC’s website.

Once accepted into the Lifeline program, you will need to recertify your eligibility annually to receive assistance.  This will mean re-verifying income and any other items requested by the National Verifier or state Lifeline program administrator.  If you do not respond to requests or complete the recertification program, your will automatically by unenrolled and no longer receive assistance.

As a way to help maintain communications during these uncertain times the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has made it easier for consumers to enroll in the Lifeline mobile cell phone program.  An order by the FCC ensures that no current Lifeline subscribers will be involuntarily removed during this time of national crisis.  It also waived recertification requirements through May 29, 2020.

Most Major Internet and Cell Phone Carriers Participate in the Lifeline Program

Most major internet and cell phone carriers provide information on how the Lifeline program assistance works, although there may be restrictions on service areas and locations which are active. While you can get internet and cell phone service, you may find there are limitations.  For example, you may not get unlimited data on some plans.

Companies are required to provide you a minimum of:

  • At least 1,000 minutes of monthly cell phone service
  • Home internet speeds of 20 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads with at least 1024 GB per month.
  • For mobile internet data plans, speeds of at least 3G and 3 GB per month

For bundled services, at least one of the services need to meet these minimum standards to qualify.  The company must also have at least one device that can function as a hotspot within the appropriate data plan. 

You can also change companies at any time. You are not locked into a long-term contract with an internet or cell phone provider.

You can check to see which carriers are participating in this program in your area by going here.