Reliable phone service is an important feature of modern life, and one that many of us take for granted.
However, for many low income Americans, the cost of a cell phone or cell phone service can be unaffordable, preventing access to the family and friends we love, as well as vital support networks such as doctors and emergency assistance.
Because phone service is so crucial in our lives, lacking access to it can be dangerous — particularly for senior citizens, who may need help at a moment’s notice.
That’s why the Lifeline Assistance program exists – to help low income Americans, including those over the age of 65, to have reliable, modern phone service at no cost.
Lifeline Assistance: Free Phone Service For Seniors
The Lifeline Assistance program is a government benefit program that was developed during the Reagan Administration to provide free landline service to qualifying, low income households. In the last decade, the government has modernized the program by providing free cell phones and free cell phone service, instead of only landlines.
This program is available in all 50 states as well as in Native American tribal communities.
Why Seniors Should Consider The Lifeline Assistance Program
Being an American with a low income can put you at risk for a number of different problems. However, seniors are particularly at risk because they so often live by themselves or spend much of their day alone.
While seniors who are able to live by themselves should be applauded for their independence in a time when many older people cannot live unassisted, seniors should also recognize the importance of having access to phone service, particularly for emergencies.
Senior citizens are more at risk of needing help for medical emergencies, this is even more true for those who are disabled; by keeping a cell phone on their person at all times, they lower the risk of being unable to call for help should they fall or hurt themselves.
Free cell phone service for seniors provided by the Lifeline Assistance program is an easy way to keep you safe. Medical safety is not the only major concern for seniors, but also their personal safety. Having a reliable cell phone available if you are out for a walk or feeling unsafe in your own home is key to your security.
But safety isn’t the only concern for seniors. Having a social network for support is crucial to our mental health at any age, but particularly as we get older. US Census Bureau statistics suggest that nearly a third of Americans over the age of 65 live alone.
Furthermore, Americans who don’t have children are at risk of having fewer family members available to provide social stimulus and care – making access to distant friends, family or emergency services even more important.
How You Can Qualify For The Lifeline Assistance Program
You can qualify for the Lifeline Assistance program if you meet one or both of the following criteria. To qualify, you must either:
- Have a yearly income that is either at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty guidelines as shown in this chart
- If you currently participate in any of the following government assistance programs, you are automatically eligible:
- Food Stamps, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Section 8 or Federal Public Housing
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- National Free School Lunch Program
- Many Other Government Programs (varies by state)
While Lifeline Assistance is available for one member per household, you may also be eligible if you live in a nursing home or homeless shelter, despite the fact that these facilities qualify as multiple households.
If you have a temporary address, you may also be eligible. If you’re curious about your eligibility, consider using this pre-screening tool to determine if you qualify.
How Can I Prove That I’m Eligible?
You’ll need to provide qualifying documentation to become a member of this program. Qualifying documentation may include the following:
- The current year or last year’s statement of benefits from any of the above qualifying governmental assistance programs which you participate in.
- Other official documentation from any of the above governmental assistance programs.
- Documents that reflect your current income: these could include last year’s tax return, paycheck stubs from your current job, a statement of benefits from the Social Security Office, veteran, retirement or unemployment benefits, child support documents, divorce documents.
- Any other documentation that provides current information about your income.
How To Apply To Lifeline Assistance
Basic phone service isn’t a privilege, it’s a right – no matter what your age or income is. With at least 250 free minutes and texts monthly, contact a Lifeline provider today to see how they can connect you with your world.