Americans deal with a lot of bills that can be expensive. The phone bill is one of those expenses that sometimes requires extra help to handle. In today’s world, it’s almost impossible to do anything without a phone, especially with the technological progress that increases the need for using phones and internet services. Luckily, the government recognizes how important it is to assist low-income people with the costs of phone services. For this reason, it provides assistance options, such as the Lifeline Program, for people in need.
Understanding the Lifeline Program
The Lifeline program is a government assistance program that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) makes available. If you meet the program’s requirements, you can save some money on your phone bill. However, you need to understand how the program works to be able to benefit from it. For this reason, we created this article that will discuss:
- Who is Responsible for the Lifeline Program
- The Lifeline Program’s Benefits
- Who Qualifies for This Opportunity
- How to Apply
- How to Maintain your Eligibility for the Lifeline Program
Who is Responsible for the Lifeline Program
The FCC may have launched the Lifeline Program, but it is the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) that is in charge of keeping it running correctly. The USAC is an amazing source of information that you can reach out to get assistance for free. It helps applicants and participants in many ways. It’s also the agency that handles the application process and decides if a person is eligible for the program or not.
The Lifeline Program’s Benefits
Although each household is only eligible to receive a maximum of one Lifeline benefit, it can significantly affect how much a family will spend on phone expenses. This is because the program might offer assistance with broadband voice and internet packages. Also, the benefits can apply to the cost of internet access, as well as wireless and wired services. The Lifeline benefits usually include a discount of up to $9.25 per month for regular participating households. However, it’s important to remember that the discount can’t be added to other discounts or used on more than one service at once. It can only apply to the service you choose.
What are the Tribal Land Lifeline Benefits?
For beneficiaries living on Tribal Lands, there are special Lifeline benefits. This includes:
- A monthly discount of up to $34.25.
- An extra one-time discount of up to $100 for those installing or activating a phone service for the first time.
This special $100 discount is provided by Tribal Lands Link Up. You should be picky about the provider you choose if you want to benefit from this special discount opportunity. Not all providers support Tribal Lands Link Up. Besides the discount, Tribal Lands Link Up can help arrange payment plans. That’s in case the total cost of the service is more than $200. One of those plans is the no-interest payment plan, which is available for a period of up to a year.
Who Qualifies for This Opportunity
The Lifeline program is designed to help low-income people afford phone expenses. That’s why it’s not available to everyone. Instead, qualifying for this program requires meeting specific criteria. You can simply go to lifelinesupport.org to see if you are eligible for this opportunity. Once on the website, you can find a webpage that can help you figure out if you qualify or not. To access this page, just hit the “Do I Qualify” option from the “Get Lifeline” dropdown menu. You can directly qualify for this program if you are currently a recipient of one of the following programs:
- Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Some Tribal Programs
Even if you don’t participate in any of these programs, you can still qualify if your household meets the program’s criteria. This includes having an annual income level that does not exceed 135% of the federal poverty guidelines. If you need more assistance with understanding the eligibility requirements, you can contact the USAC.
How to Apply
The flexibility of the Lifeline Program’s application process is one of its greatest features. When you apply for this program, you will most likely have to use the National Verifier (NV) application system. You can submit your application online using the National Verifier site. New applicants as well as current participants must use this system to verify or reverify their eligibility for benefits. In general, this system is used to check the applicant’s financial situation and decide if they are eligible for Lifeline benefits. It is a simplified platform that the FCC developed, but the USAC is running it.
There are multiple resources that you can turn to for extra help. For example, you can:
- Contact the Lifeline Support Center by email at LifelineSupport@usac.org or by calling their toll-free number at 1-800-234-9473.
- Check out the USAC website for more details on how to use the NV system.
The application process can go much more smoothly if you take advantage of the free eligibility validation tools available online.
What Documentation Should I Prepare for the Application Process?
Since this program is need-based, you will have to prove that your financial situation qualifies for receiving benefits. To prove that, you will need to provide some documentation. It shouldn’t be surprising to know that you will not be able to receive Lifeline Program assistance without proof of eligibility. The paperwork required will basically include information about participating in other qualifying programs (if applicable) and documents that detail your income situation. You can submit your proof in multiple ways including by mail, online, or by reaching out to your service company. Generally speaking, you can expect to be asked to provide the following:
- Income verification documents like a job income statement, salary stubs, previous year tax returns, a divorce decree, a child support award, and so on.
- Evidence of participation in a qualifying program
- Statement of benefits from an eligible program
- Notice letter of participation from a qualifying program
- Official documentation from a qualifying program
How to Maintain your Eligibility for the Lifeline Program
If you apply for the Lifeline program and start receiving benefits, you shouldn’t expect those benefits to be available forever. This is because it’s a must to re-verify your eligibility every year to make sure that you fall under the category of people this program aims to help.
In fact, your Lifeline Program benefits will be terminated if you no longer qualify for the program. It’s important to note that once you lose your eligibility, you must end your participation. There might be consequences if you do not cancel your participation in the program. The following are examples of situations in which you could lose eligibility:
- For whatever reason, you’ve decided to withdraw from a federally funded assistance program that qualifies.
- If your income goes up, you will no longer meet the income criteria.
- Your home has a member who receives Lifeline assistance.
In a Nutshell
Saving on your phone bill is possible with the Lifeline program. If you qualify, you may get a monthly discount of up to $9.25. Also, if you live on tribal land, you may get more benefits like a monthly discount of up to $34.25 in addition to a one-time $100 discount under certain circumstances. These benefits can apply to different phone and internet services. However, you should keep in mind that each household can only receive one Lifeline benefit. If you need more information, you can reach out to the Lifeline Support Center by email or over the phone. You can also find multiple resources online that will help you learn more about the program.