Lifeline is a discount service that helps eligible low-income consumers afford phone and internet services. Consumers qualify based on income or participation in a qualifying program.
What is Lifeline?
The Lifeline program is a federally-funded assistance program that offers discounts on monthly telephone service (wireline or wireless) to eligible low-income subscribers.
The one-per-household rule means that only one Lifeline discount can be applied to each household, whether the subscriber has a landline or a wireless account. When enrolling in the Lifeline program, you must demonstrate that other individuals residing at your home address are not members of your household by completing a one-per-household worksheet. Individuals living in group-living situations may also qualify for Lifeline.
If your income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or you receive government aid such as Medicare, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, you might qualify for the Lifeline program. To learn about the eligibility criteria in your state or to contact your Eligible Telecommunication Carrier, please visit your state’s website.
The federal Universal Service Fund funds the program, which telecommunications companies pay. You may notice a line item on your phone bill designated as USF; the telecommunications provider bills this fee to recover its contribution to the Universal Service Fund.
How Do I Apply for Lifeline?
The Lifeline program is a federal initiative that lowers the cost of communications services for eligible low-income households. It discounts subscribers on their monthly wireline or wireless phone service and broadband internet. Subscribers must first apply for Lifeline, join a provider like Assist Wireless offering the benefit, and recertify annually to maintain eligibility.
To be eligible for Lifeline, your household’s income must be 135% or less of the federal poverty guidelines. You can apply for the program by filling out an online application through the Lifeline National Verifier or downloading and sending in a paper application. Alternatively, you can contact your Internet provider to check if they are part of the program and can offer a discount on Lifeline.
To finalize your application, you must submit evidence of your involvement in a government assistance program or proof of your income. This can be in the form of pay stubs, tax returns, a letter from a social worker or an authorized assistance program administrator, or a card or document indicating that you are currently receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, federal public housing assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Veterans and Survivors Pension. You may also need a utility bill or other documents showing your address. It’s important only to apply once and provide accurate information, as falsification could result in de-enrollment or other penalties.
How Long Does It Take to Get Approved For Lifeline?
Usually, it takes a few weeks for individuals to determine their eligibility. Consumers who submit their applications online through the Lifeline National Verifier can expect to receive their decisions more quickly than those who complete paper applications. Those who apply by phone through their service provider or their state’s program may have to wait a bit longer for their eligibility determinations.
The Lifeline program is available to subscribers of participating telephone service providers who have income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines and participate in eligible government assistance programs, such as Medicaid or SNAP. The program provides a discount on monthly phone service for either a landline or wireless telephone connection, but only one line per household is supported by the Lifeline subsidy.
To qualify for the Lifeline program, consumers must present documentation of their current income and participation in other qualifying assistance programs. They must also verify their identity, including a valid address, full name, date of birth, and the last four digits of their Social Security or Tribal identification number.
If you are approved for Lifeline, you can select a plan and sign up for services through your service provider. It is important to keep in mind that you must reconfirm your eligibility for the program every year. You can complete this process online or by responding to a series of questions from your service provider.
What Happens If I Don’t Qualify for Lifeline?
You should remember several things if you don’t qualify for Lifeline. First, the program only covers one phone or internet service per household (a home landline phone and a wireless phone or home and wireless bundled plan). Talk to your provider about the Affordable Connectivity Program if you also want broadband internet service.
To qualify for Lifeline, your household must meet the income-based eligibility guidelines. These guidelines are updated yearly. Your provider will check whether you meet these guidelines during your annual renewal. To meet the requirements, your household should be composed of individuals living at the same address who share expenses and income. This includes adults, children, and other relatives.
You must also be a US citizen or permanent resident with an eligible income. Each state defines eligible income. You can check out the different states’ income requirements by visiting USAC’s website.
You can still apply for Lifeline through your provider if you don’t meet the income-based eligibility guidelines. However, you may have to submit additional documentation for manual review. Documentation can include pay stubs, tax returns, or other official documents. The type of documentation required may differ by state. Sometimes, you may need proof of participation in a qualifying assistance program, such as SNAP, Medicaid, federal public housing, or Supplemental Security Income.