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Posted on July 15, 2020

In today’s fast paced and highly interconnected economy, being available 24/7 via text, phone call, or email is vital for everyone. Smartphones are the primary way that most people maintain that level of constant contact with friends, family, and work. In fact, it has become increasingly difficult to even get hired for a job if you don’t have a phone number and email address where you can be contacted. So where does that leave the portion of the American population that is already struggling to make ends meet and can’t afford the “luxury” of a cell phone?

You may not be aware of this, but the American government has recognized the fact that telecommunications are a necessity and not a luxury since Ronald Reagan was president. In the 1980’s the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) established a program named Lifeline which was designed to ensure free or discounted access to landline telephones for low income families. As time has moved on and technology has progressed, the Lifeline program has evolved into what many people refer to as “Obama phones” but the goal remains the same: ensure access to necessary phone services for low income families.

So, how exactly does the Lifeline program translate to getting a free phone with food stamps? First off, there’s good news! You don’t have to spend food stamps in order to get a phone. You aren’t forced to choose between food or phone service. Simply being on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), is enough to qualify you for a free phone and phone service under the Lifeline program. Additionally, you may qualify if you are a part of any of several other government assistance programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance, or Veteran’s Benefits. If you are currently participating in any of these programs (as well as a few others that might be specific to the state you live in), then you can get a Lifeline phone and service. Beyond being a member of government assistance programs, you may also be eligible for Lifeline service if you are at or below 135% of federal poverty guidelines for income. Assist Wireless is available to help you determine eligibility and find the service and phone that are right for you, whether it be a free option or one of several low-cost options.

Of course, as is the case with all government programs, there will be some paperwork to fill out and verify. Usually, these can be completed online, but employees at Assist Wireless can also help you in person. You will want to be sure to bring copies of all your paperwork, such as proof of government assistance program participation or several months of income verification, and not originals since they will need to be kept on file. However, once everything is completed and verified, your enrollment will be complete, and your service will begin. There are several options available to you from that point.

To begin, there are multiple phones you can choose from depending on your budget, but there is almost always at least one option that is completely free. Additionally, if you already have a phone you like, you can keep that phone and simply begin your Lifeline phone service on the device you are already familiar with. This is a great option for many customers that may be new to the food stamps program as you may already own a phone which is set up the way you prefer. Many older customers also prefer this option as they would rather not learn to navigate different menus and options on a newer phone. Assist Wireless calls this option Bring Your Own Device and it comes with some additional benefits such as a $15 account credit or 1 GB of free data on your Lifeline service.

For those customers that don’t want to bring their own phone, or who just want to see what types of phones are available, you don’t have to worry about being forced to carry an ancient device. Currently, Assist Wireless has an option to get a free LG Xpression touchscreen smartphone with your Lifeline service. Of course, that is subject to change, but that serves as an example of the type of phone you can expect to be available for free with your new services.

As you can see, there are quite a few options available to those on food stamps (or other similar programs) who are looking for help with maintaining necessary phone service for our modern lifestyle. The government recognizes that a cell phone is an essential element of life in our country. From finding and maintaining employment, to being able to call government offices to obtain and maintain benefits, to such basic necessities as being able to call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency, Americans need to have access to a phone in order to conduct the daily business of living.

The entire reason the Lifeline program was originally created was to ensure that all Americans had access to phone service in light of the dwindling availability of other options, such as payphones, and the increasing need to be able to make calls to remain safe or economically viable as individuals within our society. The days of phone service being a luxury ended in the 1980’s with the introduction of the original version of Lifeline service for landlines, and has evolved to the point today where we recognize that a smartphone is not a luxury either. Cell phone service with a touch screen smartphone is so ubiquitous at this time that to be without it would place anyone at a significant disadvantage as well as force them to face unnecessarily unsafe situations with a lack of access to emergency services. If you are on food stamps, you should take advantage of this program and go get your free cell phone with the help of Assist Wireless.