January 26, 2011

FREE Cell Phones For the Poor

I read about this in a recent Businessweek article Free Cell Phone Service for the Poor.   If you meet eligibility requirements you can get free cell phone service.  If you have existing cell or landline you may instead qualify for a subsidy for your phone service.

The free phones come via a government  program called Lifeline.  The program is funded by the telecom companies through a program setup by the US government.   The program has existed for quite a while but only recently have wireless phone companies set it up so users can get a fully free phone.  

General state to state information on Lifeline can be found at Lifelinesupport.org website.

Assurance Wireless from Virgin mobile is one of the providers.   They offer a free phone and 250 free minutes a month.
Safelink from Tracfone is another.  The amount of minutes they offer seems to depend on the state you live in.

But the lifeline program isn't limited to those companies.   There are other companies that operate in various states offering subsidized or free services.  

To qualify you must be low income and/or on certain government subsidies.   Safelink says: "Eligibility guidelines vary by state but in general individuals qualify if they participate in a public assistance program such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), National Free School Lunch, Federal Housing/Section 8 Assistance, or if they do not receive any of these public assistance programs, they may also qualify based on total household gross monthly income."

If you're low income and might qualify or if you know someone who is low income then this might get someone a free phone to keep in touch for emergencies or to call employers about jobs, etc.

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