Free Phone & Internet for Seniors With Lifeline
There was a time when a mobile phone service or a broadband connection felt like a luxury. Cellphones were only used by those able to afford them, or as a tool for business. Broadband changed the working lives of many that had to deal with unreliable dial-up services and slow modems.
Today, most homes have some form of broadband internet connection and there are few individuals that don’t have a cell phone. However, despite this necessity, some people struggle to afford these services and can’t always keep their mobile or broadband service. The good news for those in this situation is that there is some assistance in the form of Lifeline.
Lifeline assistance is designed to provide support to people that struggle to pay their communications bills. Eligible consumers can sign up via their local providers to make vital savings on monthly bills. Below we will look at some of the important consideration when applying for this form of assistance. We look at eligibility issues, the application process and the amount of money that you can hope to receive. We will also look at some additional factors in service provision and user rights. Let’s start by looking at the issue of eligibility.
Who is Eligible for This Support from Lifeline?
There are several ways that individuals can be eligible for this assistance. They are:
- families considered to be on a low income
- those who use Medicaid, SNAP or other federal assistance programmes
- through the Tribal program
- through the need of a child or dependent.
The first group that can benefit from this service is those that are considered to be low-income households. As you may know from previous experience with government schemes, there are often different ideas about what low-income actually means. Here households are eligible for support if they have a household income that is 135% below federal poverty guidelines.
Next, there are those that are already on federal programmes for assistance. Those that qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) can apply for this assistance too. There is also help for those that receive a Veterans Pension or Survivors Benefit.
Tribal Lifeline is a branch of the scheme designed to help those that live on tribal lands. Tribal lands are classified as any federally recognized Indian tribe’s reservation, Pueblo, or colony. This can include sites of former reservations across Oklahoma, Alaska, Hawaii, and other Indian Allotments. There may also be help for those involved with the Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance Head Start programme, those on Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or those that are part of the Food Distribution Program.
Finally, households with children or dependants in the programmes above may also apply. The applicant responsible for paying the phone or internet bill doesn’t have to be directly eligible. A household with a child or elderly relative on a federal assistance scheme can also apply.
In order to check if you may qualify you should visit Lifeline Support website here.
How Can You Prove Eligibility for Lifeline Assistance?
In all cases, applicants need to prove that they are entitled to this sort of help. Those on low incomes need to show proof in the form of three consecutive pay stubs or a tax return. This gives assessors a clearer idea of income and cash flow to help with their decision. Those on a form of federal assistance can show their card and/or other official documents about their status.
If you are eligible for support, you can then choose a company within your local area that supplies the service. Then you can go through the application process to see if they will grant you the payment. You will need to offer basic personal information on name, date of birth, address and social security. They will also need to see the cards and documents mentioned above that prove your status, as well as other documents that prove your identity. Once approved, the company will apply your discount to your existing service.
So, How Much Can You Get From Lifeline?
Any customer that is deemed eligible for this programme can receive support in the form of $9.25 towards their monthly phone or internet bill. This means a monthly sum that can help to ease the monthly household budget. It may not always sound like a lot on paper, but equates to a lot of data and minutes. It is also important to note that the amount is different, however, for those that apply through Tribal Lifeline. This scheme can remove another $25 from the bill. This is a significant difference for all those that qualify.
Phone or Internet?
One of the downsides to this programme is that consumers have to make a choice over which line of communication is most important to them. Eligible customers can only use this support on either their internet bill or their phone bill.
Remember that there is a limitation of one payment per household. You can’t claim a reduction in a phone bill for being on low income and then a separate payment for a reduction in the internet bill because a senior on a veteran’s pension lives with you. While this sounds like a massive downside in many households, this broadband option hasn’t been on the table for very long. It shows that the scheme can work to modernize its approach.
This is where it helps to think about your current habits and the money you spend each month. Some people will naturally favor a reduction in their phone bill because they rely upon it so much more. It may be a vital line of communication between loved ones. Younger applicants may find it makes more sense to focus on their internet bill because their phone isn’t so important. Their main forms of communication may come from emails, internet conference calls, and social media.
Minimum Service Standards for Your Phone or Internet Service
There is often a concern that an assistance-funded service may not be up to the same standards as those received by other customers. That perhaps by paying out for this discount, the company may cut some corners on service or offer a sub-standard product. There are minimum standard service requirements here. The company must offer at least 750 minutes per month for the phone service, 250GB of data and a speed of 15/2Mbps on fixed broadband and 1GB per month and a 3G speed on mobile internet.
They must also provide the option of a hotspot-enabled device in their plan. Those are the latest figures at the time of writing. There are plans to improve the service in stages over a number of years. By the end of 2019, the number of minutes and the amount of data should increase. Prospective applicants are encouraged to check out these proposals on the official Lifeline website.
Remember that you have rights as a consumer – even when your phone and internet connections are partly funded by government assistance. If you are unhappy with a service, or it becomes unreliable, you are allowed to change providers.
Lifeline and Senior Support
This is where it is important to look at the greater benefits of this system for those of retirement age. Seniors are a big demographic when it comes to Lifeline support. Many seniors on low-incomes may wonder how they are going to pay their bills. This financial help for a phone bill could prove to be invaluable for many as they manage their budget. This assistance could ensure that they retain that essential phone line to the outside world. This means that they can call for help or call on local services whenever they need to. It also means that seniors are contactable if relatives want to check in on them.
This extra $9.25 per month can also help seniors to balance their budgets a little if they are struggling on a reduced income. Seniors that hit retirement age without savings or social security can struggle to adjust. Every little piece of support helps in ensuring that life is more manageable again. The money saved on the phone or internet bill could go towards other utilities – such as heating costs – or towards food budgets or medical care.
The good news for seniors worried about their phone or internet costs is that there are lots of ways that they can qualify for this plan. The first is through low-income. Applicants that have a low-income for retirement may meet that threshold mentioned above. Still, there will be some with just enough saved up that they fall above this line. This is where it helps to look at some of the assistance cards that you can use.
Seniors that already have a Medicaid card or are on food stamp can submit this evidence in their application. Others can use their pension, such as a Veterans pension, to qualify for this support. Then there is the potential of applying as a dependant in a household. Some families that are caring for an older relative could apply on their behalf.
You may find that your Lifeline provider asks you to recertify and renew your Lifeline discount. They could do so every year to ensure that customers are still eligible and the service is still in use. The company should send you a reminder when the time comes, either through an email, letter or text message. It is your responsibility as a customer to respond within 60 days. Those that don’t risk having their service cut off completely. Some companies will offer an automatic renewal. But, don’t assume that this is the case with your provider. Ask about this clause when you sign up so that you aren’t caught out –
In addition to this, there is also the risk of disconnection for those that don’t use their chosen service. The company isn’t going to pay out each month for a phone line or internet connection that is out of action. Users must use the line at least once every 30 days. After 30 days of inactivity, the company will send a 15-day notice. Following that, they can shut down the service completely.
Customers that Work with Their Service Provider Can Ensure the Best Possible Outcome
It is essential that anyone applying for this form of support is honest about their situation. Those that try to cheat the system will be found out. This could result in an immediate loss of assistance and no future help from the company. This means that you need to be honest about your income within the household, the dependants in that household and other personal information.
Some applicant may try and apply for two separate plans in one household. Your local provider will check to ensure that this isn’t the case. It is also the responsibility of the applicant to inform their provider if circumstances change, or if they move home. For example, you can’t move in with another person on Lifeline assistance and still receive the same payment.
Could Lifeline Assistance Help You With Your Communication Bills?
As with many government schemes, there is a drawn-out application process that requires a lot of proof regarding your situation and identity. Still, it could be worth the effort if you are deemed eligible for the service. $9.25 a month could make a big difference to your bills. The mobile support could be incredibly helpful for seniors that rely on this communication device. Families on low incomes can also benefit from a more secure broadband connection. As long as you follow the rules with the application process, you could find that this service meets your needs and helps with budgets.
Talk to advisors at Lifeline Assistance about applying for assistance. They can help you understand if you are eligible and talk you through the application process. Also, take the time to decide if you want help with your phone bill, broadband bill or a mobile internet solution. You only get one, so choose wisely. Whichever option you take, you should find that this financial support makes things a little easier.