Eligibility for free government Lifeline telephones is determined by participation in federal or state assistance programs. In most states, total household income must be below a certain percentage of the federal poverty guidelines to qualify. Alaska and Hawaii use higher income levels to set their poverty guideline rates.
Automatic eligibility is granted for participation in federal food stamp programs, Medicaid, national free school lunch programs, Supplemental Security Income and Section 8 housing assistance. Participation in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs also grants eligibility for free government Lifeline telephones. Native Americans qualify with participation in the Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations programs. Some states allow higher income levels, as a percentage of the federal poverty guidelines, than is required in most.