October 29, 2015
10 million Americans who are not able to afford a phone and service
There may be some confusion on the “Obama phone” program, so listed below is information regarding the plan:
Initial reasoning behind the Obama Phone program was that the cell phones would pay for themselves many times over by helping needy Americans (1) get in touch with prospective employers and become less dependent on government aid programs, (2) stay in contact with medical professionals, reducing government medical costs, (3) remain closely connected with children and parents, and (4) have the ability to make emergency phone calls.
• Lifeline Assistance is a program of the FCC that helps over 10 million Americans who cannot afford a phone and service, in order to help them keep in contact with employers, family, and medical and emergency services.
• Lifeline began under the Reagan administration to help low-income Americans afford their landline phone service, and was updated during the Bush administration to include mobile phones.
• Lifeline was nicknamed Obamaphone since the popularity of the program exploded under the Obama Administration.
• Obamaphones are available from companies in 49 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
• U.S. citizenship is not a requirement to receive an Obamaphone.
• Only one Lifeline phone per household is allowed, whether it be a discounted-service landline phone or a cell phone.
• There are over 50 companies offering Obamaphones.
• The largest company, Safelink Wireless, has 3.6 million customers, and is owned by Tracfone, a company owned by the richest man in the world, Mexico’s Carlos Slim.
• Most companies offer 250 minutes of talk and text a month, but recently more minutes and 1,000 texts to even unlimited texts are being offered.
• Some California companies offer has the best deal in the country — unlimited talk and unlimited texting.
• The Lifeline program is not taxpayer-funded. It is funded by the Universal Service Fund fees that are required by law to be collected by telecommunications companies. The fund is used for various telecommunication projects, including Lifeline Assistance.
• The FCC has initiated fraud and abuse controls which save hundreds of minutes of cost each year.
• A household is eligible for an Obamaphone if a member of the household participates in any of the following public assistance programs:
– Food Stamps (SNAP)
– Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
– The National School Lunch Program (Free Lunch Program)
– Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
– Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
– Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
– * Other state-specific program eligibility is often available.
• A household is also eligible if the total household income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for that state. Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas. California, Nevada and Vermont allow 150%.
• The cell phone companies receive $9.25 for each subscriber (higher for Tribal) in order to provide the cell phone and service free to the subscriber.
• There is no contract to sign to receive the service, which lasts for one year. The service can be renewed annually with a quick recertification process.
• The program is free in nearly every state, but some states require very small monthly fees ($1 per month in Oklahoma, $1 from some companies in Alaska, and a $5 monthly fee was proposed but rejected in Georgia).