Posted on January 1, 2020
Did you know that you can get free cell phones if you live in Oklahoma? Also known as Lifeline phones, they are offered through a special program to anyone who resides in the state.
Basically, there are two ways to qualify for a free Lifeline phone. You don’t need to meet both requirements, just one will do. If you are in either of the following categories, you can claim your free phone:
1. Your total household income is below 135 percent of the federal poverty limit
2. You receive one of the many types of government financial assistance, e.g., Social Security, Medicaid, etc.
That’s it. If you’re in one of those categories listed above, you will be able to qualify for the free Lifeline phone program. It gets you not only a cell phone but also free monthly minutes, texts, and data so you can surf the Internet.
Even though there are two ways to qualify for free cell phones, most people are curious about what the income limits are for Oklahoma residents, in terms of dollars per year that you can earn and still get a free Lifeline phone.
Below is a breakdown for how much you can earn. This applies to those who reside in Oklahoma and want to qualify for the Lifeline free phone plan by income.
After that is a listing of the government assistance programs that can qualify someone to get a free phone. As long as your income is below the amounts shown below or you already receive one of the listed types of government assistance, then you can qualify to join the free Lifeline phone program simply by filling out a short application.
The basic way to get into the free phone program based on income is this: If your total household income, based on how many people live in your home, is at or below the amount listed in the following chart, then you already qualify for a free Lifeline phone, free minutes, free texts, and free data plans.
Income you can earn based on the number of people in your household:
$12,490, if you live alone in your home
$16,910, if you have 2 household members
$21,330, if you have 3 household members
$25,750, if you have 4 household members
$30,170, if you have 5 household members
$34,590, if you have 6 household members
$39,010, if you have 7 household members
$43,430, if you have 8 household members
Many have more than eight people living in their household. If that’s the case, then it’s easy to figure the next-up level of income by just adding $4,420 for each additional member of the household.
If you live alone and earn $10,000 per year, you are clearly below the $12,490 amount and would thus qualify for a free Lifeline phone based on your income level.
If you live alone and earn $20,000 per year, you will not be able to qualify for the free phone because $20,000 is well above the $12,490 cut-off point. But you might still be able to get a free phone if you already receive one of the nine forms of government assistance, as listed in the next section.
If your household has five people, and the total amount of income earned by everyone (not just you) is $29,000, then you would qualify for the free phone. If your five-member household had a total income of $32,000, you would not be able to qualify based on income because your total household earnings went over the $30,170 allowed amount for a five-member household.
In that case, you might still be able to qualify for the free Lifeline phone program if you receive government assistance. See the following section for government programs that might help you get a free Lifeline phone.
If you are currently receiving government assistance from any of the programs listed below, then you can qualify for a free Lifeline phone without having to worry about what your total household income is. Simply being in one of the following government programs is enough to qualify you for a free Lifeline phone. Each category is named, followed by a brief description of the form of identification you can use to qualify for a free cell phone.
SSI: This is the U.S. government’s Supplemental Security Income program, which has millions of people on its roster. If you are receiving SSI, you have a Social Security ID card and should also have a letter from SSI stating that you are receiving benefits.
Medicaid: These are state-based programs that help recipients cover medical costs. Each one supplies members with an ID card as documentation of being in the program.
Food Stamps (SNAP): Now called the SNAP program, what used to be known as the federal food stamps program issues ID cards to all program members, which can be used as documentation for getting a free cell phone.
BIA: If you are in the Bureau of Indian Affairs general assistance program, you will have an ID card and a letter showing that you were accepted into the program.
Veterans Benefits: Veterans benefits take two forms. There are survivors’ benefits paid out to spouses and family members after a veteran dies. Additionally, the standard benefits are paid directly to veterans. Both types of benefits include ID cards and letters of acceptance into the program.
FPHA: The Federal Public Housing Assistance program has millions of members, all of whom have documents showing that they were accepted into the program based on various qualifying criteria.
Tribal Head Start: A Tribal Head Start program member has already had to meet income standards. Program members receive letters when they are accepted into the program.
TANF: This program, officially known as “Tribally Administered Temporary Assistance to Needy Families,” is similar to Tribal Head Start in that it sends a letter of acceptance to everyone who qualifies to be in it.
FDPIR: The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations is a program run by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. All program members have ID cards and letters of acceptance that can be used as documentation to get a free Lifeline cell phone.
Of course, you will need to show some form of documentation that you are in one of the nine federal assistance programs, but that’s all you need to do to qualify for a free cell phone and plan. Depending which government assistance you receive, the documentation will be different. However, most of the nine programs listed above give recipients an ID card. That card and your program ID number are generally the only two things you’ll need to prove you are in the assistance program and thus okay to receive the free Lifeline phone.
The free Lifeline phone program is simple, but there are a few specific things to keep in mind as you apply.
One phone per household: When you qualify for the Lifeline free cell phone program, you only get one cell phone. You do not receive a phone for each member of the household. So if you want to have multiple cell phones, you simply will have to purchase additional phones from your preferred carrier. However, you will be entitled to one free cell phone by virtue of qualifying for the Lifeline plan.
You must qualify every year: At the end of each calendar year, you will need to requalify for the Lifeline free cell phone program. What’s the reason for having to do that? It’s common for people’s incomes to change from year to year. Many times, people will have low income one year and much higher income the next.
The way the free cell phone program works is to provide no-cost phones and services to low-income individuals. If your income goes up, and if you are not receiving government assistance of any kind, then you might not be eligible for the free cell phone program in that year.
Even if your income goes up and you don’t receive a free phone for a specific year, you can apply again the following year if your income goes down below the cut-off point or if you are admitted into one of the nine federal government assistance programs on the approved list.
Not all phones are new: Recipients who qualify for a free phone and service should understand that the phones are not necessarily new. In fact, most of the cell phones in the program are refurbished devices that have been tested and passed a quality-control screening. So, while the device you receive might not be brand new, it will be a fully functioning cell phone with text and data capabilities.
If you are in the free cell phone program and your device stops working properly, you can simply return it to your carrier, which will replace it with another phone. For the most part, nearly all those who receive free cell phones through the lifeline program don’t encounter problems with their devices.