Lifeline was created during the Reagan presidency. At that time, only landline phones were offered as a subsidy for low income people and their families. Still, these phones gave relief to people, who knew they would have contact with family, friends, employers and could reach authorities in case of an emergency.
Lifeline is a government founded program created distinctly to provide cell phones to those who could not otherwise afford one, based on their involvement in other government assistance programs and their gross income.
The good news is that this government program is not funded by taxes. Lifeline is funded through the Universal Service Fund. The USF collects money from Lifeline service providers to supply low income people and their families with a source of communication for free or at an extremely discounted rate.
It is the cell phone service providers decision whether or not it collects this monthly USF fee from its customers or from another source of company revenue. Some cell phone service providers have chosen to pass the USF fee on to their customers. These customers will notice a Universal Service Charge at the bottom of their cell phone service statement.
Why Free Cell Phones for the Poor?
The Lifeline program supports the low income people of our country like no other program can. These phones offer a source of communication, which is invaluable to a person’s psyche, career and personal development as well as access to contact the authorities in case of an emergency, such as break in, possibly life-threatening accident or domestic issue.
Today, there are more than 17 million households who receive help from the Lifeline program. This program’s goal is to help as many people in need as it can, but there needs to be strict parameters in order to achieve fairness and to make sure Lifeline services are only helping those who truly need the assistance.
A potential Lifeline customer must have a number of different qualifications before receiving help from Lifeline. Lifeline’s strict requirements include, membership in another government assistance program, extremely low gross income and a variety of different proof documents.
Also, if a household already receives assistance from LIfeline in the form of a landline or wireless line, that household may not receive another phone line from Lifeline. There can only be one Lifeline phone line per household.
Government program memberships which are considered proof of eligibility change by state. Before you apply to receive a free cell phone and service plan from a Lifeline provider, be sure to check your state’s government assistance program requirements.
Although qualified government assistance programs will change depending on state residence, most likely these programs will include, assistance from food stamps, assistance from Medicaid and assistance from reduced school lunches.
Another facet of eligibility, is the family’s gross income. If the gross income is at or below 135% or 150% (depending on state) of the national poverty line, or less than about $15,000 per year, this could also show eligibility for the Lifeline program.
This service is especially important for the homeless who can already feel removed from society as well as their families. These people need a resource to keep in contact with family, friends and potential employers. A cell phone may mean they can get off the streets.
A homeless person may try to find work; walking blocks through their neighborhood to fill out numerous applications. However, without a cell phone these applications are virtually useless. Homeless people have zero resources to help themselves in most cases.
From the San Francisco Chronicle, there is a story about Brittney Ames, a 24-year old homeless woman looking for work in California. Ames states, it’s impossible to get call-backs from potential employers without a cell phone. She goes on to say, she feels helpless in her journey to better herself without the proper tools needed to be successful in our modern world.
Another benefit to homeless people getting phones, especially homeless women and children, are the capabilities of finding an open shelter. Homeless women and children can sign up for a homeless shelter’s text message service and receive updates on the status of open beds.
This service eliminates the risk of walking miles around a dangerous city at night looking for a place to sleep by alerting the homeless people if the shelter is full or not. This service will hopefully reduce the risk of these mothers and women getting raped or injured while looking for a place for her and her family to sleep.
The money these people save by not spending on overpriced phone bills they can save to get off the streets, move to a better side of town and enroll their children in a better school. This money can buy more nutritious food and warmer clothes for the winter time.
Lifeline is an amazing program doing amazing things for the low income people and their families as well as homeless people and their families of our country. Without these free cell phones or service plans, these people would not have the right tools to succeed in our ever-advancing technological future we have created ourselves.