Cutting your phone or Internet costs via Lifeline could make it easier to cope with COVID-19’s negative financial impact. Here’s what you must do to qualify and apply for this program.
Being stuck inside is bad enough, but could you imagine doing it without phone or Internet service? That’s the reality for some families, but if you qualify for Lifeline, you could get service at a very affordable discount, or even free now and well into the future.
What Is Lifeline?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created Lifeline as a way to make phone and Internet more affordable for low-income consumers. The program achieves this goal by offering discounts up to $9.25 on phone or Internet bills, as well as free cell phones or service in select cases.
As an example, here’s what Assurance Wireless offers for those who qualify for Lifeline:
- An Android smartphone at no cost
- Unlimited free texts
- Multiple GB of free data
- Free voice minutes
- Free call waiting, caller ID, and voicemail
While cell phones and the Internet used to be thought of as a luxury, they’re now a necessity for many everyday functions, which is why Lifeline is so essential for the low-income community.
It’s worth noting that although Lifeline offers discount phone or Internet service, a household cannot enjoy both benefits simultaneously. One or the other must be chosen, and when it comes to phone service, you can have either a landline or cell service through the program.
Lifeline Eligibility Requirements
A household can qualify for Lifeline either based on income or the use of certain assistance programs.
In terms of income, a household must earn 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines, which will be verified via proof of income. You can use a tax return or consecutive pay stubs to prove that you meet this requirement.
If you or anyone in your household, including a child or dependent, participates in any of the following, that can help you qualify for Lifeline as well:
- Food stamps
- Public housing assistance
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- And more
Living on federally recognized Tribal lands can yield an extra $25 percent discount off your monthly bill, which would equal a max of $34.25 in savings.
As mentioned, Lifeline discounts are limited to one per household. Failure to adhere to this rule could lead to criminal or civil penalties.
How to Apply for Lifeline
You have three options when it comes to applying for Lifeline benefits. The slowest method is by mail. Applying online can result in immediate approval, which is why it’s recommended.
You can also contact an Internet or phone company and ask if they’re affiliated with Lifeline. There are several companies that provide Lifeline services, so you’re bound to find one that can fulfill your needs.
To begin the Lifeline application process, go here, where you’ll find all the information you need to get started. When applying, you may need certain documentation handy, such as:
- Driver’s license or government-issued ID
- Program award letters for Medicaid, SNAP, etc.
- Income eligibility documents like pay stubs, last year’s tax return, child support award, etc.