Free Government Cell Phone Program Too Good To Be True?

Free Government Cell Phone Program Too Good To Be True?

If you think that a free government cell phone program is too good to be true, Federal government Lifeline Assistance program is possible in some states for people who qualify.

The free government cell phone program was created in 1985 to ensure that people with low income have access to affordable service and is not deprived from communication with family members, job searches and emergency services. While this program has spanned multiple administrators, it was nicknamed “Obamaphone” by conservatives in 2012 after a supporter viral video touting the mobiles.

About 34 percent of American homes only use and receive almost all of their calls on a wireless telephone despite having a landline, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cellular phones became an absolute necessity for many people to receive and place calls to business associates and family as well as access emails. Early mobile devices can only be used in areas with a strong signal but technological advances now equip contemporary phones with GPS to allow authorities to track location in the event of an emergency.

Four Major Free Cell Phone Providers

Unfortunately, the free government cell phone program is not available in 50 states. However, depending on the state you live, you can choose from the four major cell phone providers who participate in the Lifeline Assistance program.

  • Assurance Wireless
  • ReachOut Wireless
  • Budget Mobile Wireless
  • Safelink Wireless

Service Abuse

As the program cost tripled from $819 million in 2008 to $2.2 billion in 2012, so has the rise of abuse risk. There were reports of multiple phones going to one person, being sent to underage residents, and even to illegal immigrants processing their visa.

The free phone program is open to those who earn less than the federal poverty guidelines for their state, on Medicaid, food stamps, or other assistance programs. The program has already helped tens of millions of low-income Americans. However, the recent audit revealed that 41 percent of nearly 6 million subscribers did not meet the requirements.

In January 2012, the Federal Communications Commission tightened the rules of the program and estimated that 15 percent of its subscribers would be weeded out under the reformed and modernized program. In fact, it already eliminated 1.1 million duplicate subscriptions and saved $214 million last year.

How to qualify?

Eligibility to free government cell phones varies from state to state. Generally, your income has to be below 135% Federal Poverty Guidelines, or you participate in one of the following government programs:

  • Medicaid;
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP);
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP);
  • Federal Public House Assistance (Section 8);
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF);

Only one free phone in any household is allowed and every year you have to verify if you qualify for the program.

Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas

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