In this modern age, cell phones and internet access are essential! Unfortunately, some households can have a hard time affording a phone and internet plan. You may know that the federal government provides assistance to families across the country for various costs like food and healthcare. However, you may not know that there is a program that can help with your phone or internet bill! This assistance option is the Lifeline Program.
Explaining Lifeline and How it Can Help
This federal program offers low-income households a discount on a variety of communication services. This program is offered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The services that qualify for a discount include:
- Wireless and wireline phone service
- Wireless internet
- Broadband internet service
- Broadband-voice bundle packages
It is important to note that Lifeline recipients can only apply their discount to one of these services at any given time. In addition to that, households are limited to one discount. This means that multiple members of the same household cannot receive benefits through Lifeline at the same time. The maximum discount that one household can receive is $9.25 in most areas where the program is run. However, recipients that live on tribal lands can receive a discount of up to $34.25.
Additional Benefits For Recipients on Tribal Lands
Qualifying Lifeline recipients that live on Tribal Land can expect a greater monthly discount on communication services. What else sets them apart from recipients in other areas? First, Tribal Lands Link Up could offer financing options in cases where the cost of service is more than $200. One of the financing options offers recipients a payment plan with 0% interest for up to 12 months. When you are searching for a service provider, you want to keep in mind Tribal Lands Link Up isn’t accepted everywhere. Lastly, recipients may also be able to get a one-time bill credit of up to $100. This discount is provided as a bill credit when a household opens or installs a new phone service.
Who Is Eligible for Lifeline?
We mentioned previously that Lifeline provides assistance to households with a low income. Therefore, to qualify, your income level cannot be greater than 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If you would like to determine if you’re eligible, you can do so by visiting lifelinesupport.org! To proceed on the website click “Do I Qualify.”
Aside from that, households already benefiting from other federal assistance programs can qualify for Lifeline. You could be eligible if you are currently participating in one of the following:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Some Tribal Programs
The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) operates the program and delivers the benefits to recipients. They are the best place to turn to for the most up-to-date information on Lifeline! The USAC also has the responsibility of helping both recipients and applicants! For example, they can help recipients recertify when the time comes, as well as educate applicants on eligibility criteria.
Lifeline Rules to Keep in Mind
Like most federal assistance programs, Lifeline comes with a set of rules that recipients have to follow. These include:
- Recertifying when the time comes, in order to continue to receive benefits
- Provide proof of eligibility
- Limit of one Lifeline service discount per household
The Lifeline Application Process
Both applicants and current recipients of Lifeline are required to utilize an efficient online system created by the FCC. This system is the National Verifier system. Applicants will use the system to apply and then later down the line, if approved, need to use the system to recertify for benefits. If you’re not familiar with using online portals like this one, then you can get extra support by emailing their support center at [email protected]. The USAC uses the online system to easily confirm the details of an applicant and determine if they’re eligible.
Documentation You Will Need to Provide With Your Lifeline Application
Lifeline will need proof that you’re eligible for the program. For this reason, they ask that you provide certain documents to confirm the details you give on your application. If you are unable to provide enough proof of your eligibility, then your application will be denied. You should expect to present some of the following documentation when applying:
- Statement of Benefits from another eligible federal program
- Participation Confirmation from another eligible federal program
- Notice Letter of Participation from another eligible federal program
- Official documents from another eligible federal program
- Income Verification Documents such as pay stubs, previous year tax returns, income statements from your employer, an award for child support, a divorce decree, etc.
How Long Do Lifeline Benefits Last?
You now understand that you have to provide proof of eligibility in order to start benefiting from the Lifeline Program. However, you might be wondering if that is the only time you’ll need to provide the documentation mentioned previously.
Each year, recipients have to complete recertification to continue getting benefits. The recertification process allows Lifeline to determine that you’re still qualified for the program. Recipients that either don’t recertify or no longer meet the requirements will not continue to get assistance. It is important that recipients who are aware they no longer qualify to remove themselves from the program. Individuals who do not do this can be subject to penalties. Examples of when you could no longer qualify include:
- Another member of your household starts benefiting from Lifeline
- An increase in income that is now above the program’s income limitations
- You are no longer participating in another eligible federal program
Wrapping it Up
The Lifeline Program is a federal assistance option that helps households with the cost of communication services. This program helps by offering a service discount to qualifying households. The maximum monthly discount in most areas is $9.25. It is also important to keep in mind that this discount can be applied to one service at a time. In addition to that, only one household member can benefit from Lifeline at once.
The potential discount is greater for recipients living on Tribal Lands. The maximum discount that can be applied to communication services in these areas is $34.25. However, that isn’t the only additional benefit that households in these areas can receive! If you are interested in applying for this assistance program, you can do so online using the National Verifier system. If you would like more information about Lifeline, you can call their support number at 1-800-234-9473. This can make a huge difference for those in need!