The one-of-a-kind Lifeline Assistance Program implemented by the government has helped millions of people in the country. Owing to it, low-income groups have free phones and easy access to reasonably-priced wireless or wired connections now.
It helps people access job portals, keep in touch with loved ones, and even contact the authorities in case of emergency. But there are many vital things about this free phone service that several possibly eligible people are unaware of.
Below are the answers to a few fundamental questions that most people have about the program. These answers will help you decide whether you are eligible for it and how you can benefit from it.
Who oversees and administers the program?
The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) runs the free phone scheme. It is an independent non-profit body established in 1997 by the FCC and the designated administrator of the USF, or the Universal Service Fund.
The USAC enables low-income individuals to attain and use good quality phones for research, job hunting, and other essential needs through the program.
What does the program cover?
In a majority of cases, the scheme provides a discount of up to $9.25 to eligible subscribers each month. This subsidized provision enables them to connect to an inexpensive wireless basic phone service.
The scheme was amended in 2016 by official order, expanding the subsidies to include broadband services. Several providers who now offer a prepaid wireless service also provide a free wireless mobile phone to subscribers.
However, one should note that the phone cost is not borne by the program but by the designated service provider.
Is it different for those residing on Tribal lands?
The scheme differs a bit for those on Tribal lands – Federally recognized areas. The monthly subsidy offered to residents on these lands can go up to $34.25. A simple breakdown of the subsidy goes like this: $9.25 of the general support and an extra $25 support each month.
Furthermore, subscribers residing on such lands are eligible for additional support under the Link Up Program of the FCC.
Does it have any restrictions?
When you apply for the free phone service, know that this program has a few restrictions. For starters, subscribers can avail themselves of either a wireless or a wireline subsidy, but not both simultaneously. Violation of this rule will lead to the termination of assistance.
Also, another critical thing is that the benefit is a non-transferable one. So, you cannot hand it over to anyone else even if they qualify for it. Violation of this can lead to removal from the program and possible charges of perjury from the government.
Additionally, applicants must be truthful in the application, failing which, they will face severe penalties.
A final critical point to know is that one household is eligible for a single subsidized connection. This means that the program offers one free phone and subsidized service per household and not per head.
What are the eligibility criteria?
To apply for the free cell phone program, you must have an income of at least 135% or less, as per the Federal poverty guidelines.
Alternatively, you are automatically eligible if already enrolled in specific other government programs. These include Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, and Supplemental Security Income, among others.
Either way, you have to submit proof of income or statements and documentation that prove you are enrolled in one of the other schemes during the application process. Once the application is approved and you are registered successfully, you will need to verify your eligibility every year.
Sometimes, people become disqualified from the phone program for certain reasons, such as an increase in their income or removal from another qualifying government program.
In this scenario, it is essential for the concerned subscribers to contact the respective service provider and disengage from the scheme.
What kind of phones should one expect to receive?
Typically, subscribers do not know what type of mobile phones they will receive until they are successfully enrolled in the program.
And although carriers of the scheme may not provide very high-end and costly phones, they offer good quality smartphones among other decent varieties of phones.
So, rest assured that your free phone will be more than capable of helping you perform all your daily activities effortlessly.
While it is incredible to avail of the benefits of this program, it is equally important to find the right service provider. So, before you enroll with someone, check their authorization, schemes, services, and other details.
Also, check if the provider will reaffirm your eligibility after a year. This way, you will be able to enroll without any hassles and start enjoying the government’s cell phone assistance a lot quicker than usual.