In the 21st century, cell phones have become more than just a luxury; they have become a necessity. These tools are useful for a variety of reasons; not only do they allow us to stay in touch with loved ones, but cell phones are also essential for work, as workers use them to contact employers and clients. Cell phones are also essential in emergency situations. Given the fact that public pay phones are few and far between and have been all but eradicated, cellular phones are a necessity.
Since cell phones have become such a vital tool in the technology age, the government has made it possible for authorized cellular phone providers to offer complimentary devices and services to low-income individuals who would otherwise be unable to afford them. If you cannot afford a cell phone on your own, you may qualify for a free government-sponsored device.
The Government-Sponsored Cell Phone Program
Since cell phones have become such crucial tools in the technology age, the government has established a free program that offers cellular devices and services to individuals and families who are economically impoverished. The government-funded program, known as Lifeline Assistance, guarantees that all American citizens have access to the benefits that cellular devices and services provide. This program is part of the Universal Service Fund and it is available in 49 of the 50 United States, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Under this program, individuals who earn less than a specific income level can gain access to a cell phone and cellular services. Those who qualify can have access to 250 minutes up to an unlimited amount of talk and text minutes every month, depending on the location they live in.
It is estimated that between 12 and 15 million Americans are receiving free government-funded cellular phones and services. Eligibility requirements vary from location to location. In some areas, anyone who receives other forms of government assistance, such as Section 8 housing, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), may automatically qualify for the Lifeline Assistance program. In other areas, household income may be a qualifying factor for eligibility.
Eligibility requirements for the Lifeline Assistance program do vary from state to state. Depending on where you live, you may be required to show proof of income or proof of the government-funded program you are participating in to determine if you are eligible for the government-funded cell phone program. Under the Lifeline Assistance program, those who do qualify are eligible to receive a single wireless or wireline account per household.
Being able to stay connected is such a crucial component of life in the 21st century. Not only do cell phones provide instant access to vital emergency communication, but they can also be invaluable tools for achieving certain goals (work-related communication, for example).
How to Apply for a Free Government Cell Phone
If you are unable to afford a cellular device and the necessary accompanying services, you are probably wondering whether you qualify for a government-funded cell phone. By using the following information, you can find out if you qualify for a free cell phone, and if so, how you can go about attaining one.
Find out if you qualify
As with any government-funded program, you will need to meet eligibility requirements in order to receive a free cell phone through the government. The majority of people who are receiving benefits from a federal or state aid program, as those who are receiving assistance from these programs have already demonstrated that they have a financial need for a free government sponsored cell phone. If you are receiving benefits from any of the following programs, regardless of the state that you live in, you will automatically be considered eligible for the Lifeline Assistance program:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or Food Stamps)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8 housing)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance (BIA)
- Tribal Heat Start
- Tribally Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefits
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FPIR)
Do note that in some states, if you qualify for state-sponsored aid programs, you may qualify, as well; for instance if you qualify for MassHealth in Massachusetts or the Women, Infants, and Children Program in California, you will qualify for Lifeline Assistance. Additionally, if you are not receiving assistance through one of these programs, you may be able to qualify for a free cell phone by demonstrating your Total Household Income. If your total income is a specific amount below the Federal Poverty level, you may eligible for a government-funded program; in Hawaii, for example, if your Total Household Income is 135% or more below the Federal Poverty level, you will qualify for Lifeline Assistance.
Find a provider
Once you determine that you are eligible, you will need to find out who offers free cell phones through the Lifeline Assistance program in your state. You can locate information that directs you to providers in your state online.
Contact a provider
After finding a provider, contact them to find out more about how you receive a free cell phone through that provider. While each provider must adhere to rules that are set forth by the Lifeline Assistance program, the phones and plans that each company offers will vary.
Once you’ve chosen a company that offers free cell phones, enroll in the program. You can do so online via the provider’s website.
Once you have enrolled in a program, your free cell phone will be sent to you by mail. Delivery time will vary; it can take several weeks to receive your device. After you receive your phone, you will be able to start using it, based on the details that are outlined by the provider, which will be determined based on your eligibility requirements.