A whopping 96 percent of Americans use a cell phone. The cell phone has become more than a convenience: It’s a necessity, a required tool for connecting with loved ones, scheduling appointments, and fulfilling obligations. Not having a cell phone is a significant barrier to personal and professional success, but unfortunately, many low income and marginalized people can’t afford to pay for one.
Thankfully, there’s a government program made to help everyone get connected.
What is the Lifeline Assistance Program?
Because the cell phone has become an essential tool, the government offers families and individuals a way to offset the cost of owning one. The Lifeline Assistance Program, also known as “Obama phones,” was created to reduce monthly cell phone costs and allow low income people and their families the connection they deserve.
What does the Lifeline Assistance Program provide?
Lifeline typically gives eligible low-income subscribers up to a $9.25 a month discount on phone or internet service, including broadband. For people living on Tribal lands, the discount is $34.25. This discount can be applied to either a wireless or landline, but can’t be applied to both at the same time. Lifeline allows discounts on standalone cell phone plans, standalone internet plans, or plans that bundle both internet and phone plans.
Who is eligible for Lifeline?
Lifeline is offered in every U.S. state, territory, and Tribal land. To qualify for Lifeline, you must participate in one or more of the following:
- Be 135 percent below the Federal Poverty Guideline
- Participate in SNAP
- Receive Medicaid benefits
- Receive SSI benefits
- Receive Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Be a Veterans Pension and Survivor beneficiary
- Participate in Tribal programs and live on federally recognized Tribal lands
If you qualify for any of these programs, you’re automatically eligible for Lifeline. If any child or dependent participates in any of the programs above, you are also eligible for Lifeline.
What do I need to apply for Lifeline?
You must show documentation of the qualifying benefits you receive. This could include a card, explanation of benefits, etc. Click here for a complete list of things to prove you qualify for Lifeline.
Are there limitations?
Not everyone qualifies for Lifeline. The program is based on poverty, and has the following limitations:
- Discounts may be provided for wireless or landline, but not both at the same time
- You can’t have more than one Lifeline benefit per household regardless of how many people have cell or internet service, so it’s a good idea to use your Lifeline eligibility for an essential person in your household.
- A limited number of service providers accept Lifeline. Find participating Lifeline providers in your area.
- Individual states and territories differ on qualifying Lifeline providers and how the program is administered. Be sure to check with your state or territory’s Lifeline rules.
How do I apply for Lifeline?
The application process is relatively straightforward. Click here to see if you you qualify for Lifeline benefits. To apply, click here. The government may ask for more information on your eligibility, so be sure to have supporting documentation ready.