Posted on September 22, 2020

A free smartphone with the Lifeline program sounds like the stuff of dreams. The prices set down by the largest companies offering cell phone services have only been rising, leaving many people unable to afford any of their offered phone plans. In response to the problem of many individuals left without a way to communicate with the outside world, the government created the Lifeline Program.

Assist Wireless is a telecommunications carrier that is eligible to provide the Lifeline Program. At this time, Assist Wireless services individuals throughout Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Maryland though the coverage is always expanding. Both individuals on Tribal and Non-Tribal lands can qualify as long as they meet the criteria.

What is Lifeline?

First, you may be wondering what exactly Lifeline is. The Lifeline Program, as mentioned above, is a Federal government program that is supported by the Universal Service Fund. Depending on how an individual qualifies and where he/she lives, service can be provided either for free or for a small fee. As the years and technology progressed, Lifeline service was expanded to allow an eligible individual to choose a cell phone, or a home phone, or internet service for their household.

Services

As mentioned above, Lifeline provides one individual in a household with the ability to choose service for a wireless phone (or internet) or wireline service. It will only provide one benefit at a time to a qualifying household. Should the household choose to have a cell phone or landline, the services provided are:

  • Unlimited 911 for emergencies
  • Caller I.D.
  • Caller Waiting
  • Voicemail
  • Live Customer Service

Depending on the plan you choose, if qualified, you will receive a certain amount of data and minutes. As an example, Assist Wireless has a popular plan among the Non-Tribal population, which for $5 a month, provides unlimited text, 3GB of data, and 600 minutes to talk. The plan can always be scaled up or down, and additional text, talk minutes, and data are available for purchase.

How to Apply

Assist Wireless is there to help you with any application questions you may have. There are specific criteria that an applicant must meet in order to be eligible for the program.

Qualifications

The first of the criteria is to qualify for another government-run program. Those programs are:

  • SNAP / Food Stamps
  • Medicaid
  • SSI – Supplemental Security Income
  • FPHA – Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • Veterans Benefits
  • BIA – Bureau Of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • FDPIR – Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • TANF – Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
  • Tribal Head Start

Though the first may qualify you for the Lifeline program, there is also an income threshold that could help in your eligibility. If you do not meet any of the criteria mentioned above, you may also qualify if your total household income is at or below 135% of the poverty guidelines based on the state of your residence.

Documentation

Submitting the appropriate documentation is another step in the process and one that Assist Wireless can help you with. Now that you are aware of the eligibility guidelines, it’s time to review the documents you will be required to submit. These documents must prove three things: your program or income eligibility, proof of identity, and proof of address.

Proof of Program Eligibility

Each program may have its type of paperwork that shows the eligibility into the program. However, there are two types of documents that will provide the information:

  • Program Approval Letter should contain the following information:
    • Name of the program or state equivalent,
    • Name of the beneficiary
    • Eligibility dates, OR
    • Current participation status
  • An eligibility screenshot from an online portal or website should contain:
    • Name of the program or state equivalent
    • Name of the beneficiary
    • Medical identification number OR
    • Case number,
    • Eligibility dates OR
    • Current participation status

Proof of Income

If you find that you do not qualify by participation in a program, you may qualify by proof of low income. Some of the documents you could present include:

  • Prior year’s State, Federal, or Tribal Tax Return
  • Veterans Administration Benefits Statement
  • Retirement/Pension Benefits Statement
  • Social Security Benefits Statement
  • Unemployment/Workers Compensation Benefits Statement
  • Divorce Decree or Child Support Documents
  • You may qualify for Lifeline if your income is 135% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • Current Income Statement from Employer or Paycheck Stubs*
    *If you provide documentation that does not cover a full year (such as current paycheck stubs), you must submit three (3) consecutive months’ worth of the same type of document from the previous twelve months.

Proof of Identity

An important step in the application process is to prove you are who you say you are. Some of these documents include:

  • Driver’s License or Passport (unexpired)
  • Certificate of Naturalization or of U.S. Citizenship
  • Birth Certificate
  • Permanent resident or resident alien card (unexpired)
  • Military discharge documentation
  • U.S. government, military, state, or Tribal issued ID (unexpired)
  • Weapon’s Permit (unexpired)
  • Government assistance program document (that includes proof of identity)
  • Statement of benefits from a qualifying program (that includes proof of identity)

Proof of Address

Since the benefit can only be used once per household, it is important to prove your current address under which the benefit will apply. Documents that can be used as proof of your address are:

  • Driver’s License, Government, State, or Tribal Issued ID (unexpired)
  • Statement of Benefits from a Qualifying Program Which Contains Name and Address
  • Government Assistance Program Documents
  • Utility Bill
  • Current Income Statement, Paycheck Stub, or W2
  • Current Mortgage or Lease Statement
  • Retirement/Pension Statement of Benefits
  • Unemployment/Workers Compensation Benefit Statement of Benefits

As you navigate the steps for receiving your own free smartphone, Assist Wireless is here to help with the process. Lifeline phones are a benefit provided by the government to help individuals and families in need. Everyone should have access to communicate with loved ones and friends; emergency, medical and government services; schools; and potential employers.