What Are the Benefits of the Federal Lifeline Assistance Program?


Quick Answer

The Lifeline program provides a discount for landline or cellular telephone service to low-income consumers. Since 2005, the program includes discounts for prepaid wireless service.

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Full Answer

The discount for cellular or wired telephone service for 2015 is $9.25, as set by the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the Lifeline program. Recipients receive the discount for prepaid cellular service through a related program that provides a cell phone and monthly usage at no charge.

Recipients must prove eligibility to receive assistance. They must earn a maximum income of 135 percent of the poverty guidelines or participate in state or federal assistance programs. The programs include Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, National School Lunch Program and Head Start. Proof must be provided after each year of assistance to continue eligibility.

Recipients are limited to one Lifeline benefit, with one service provider, per household. They must choose to apply the discount to their landline or cellular service.

The Lifeline program was created in 1985 to help low-income Americans receive telephone service. Funding for the Lifeline program comes from the Universal Service Fund. Long-distance carriers pay a percentage of their end-user telecommunications revenue to fund the program. Some companies pass the cost to consumers; the cost is noted on billing statements.

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