Posted on November 3, 2019

Having a cell phone in today’s world is practically a must-have. A cell phone allows you to stay connected to your friends and family, medical offices, schools, and more. As long as you qualify for the Lifeline program by income, or if you are currently a recipient of any of the approved government assistance programs, you can get a free or low-cost cell phone and discounted monthly service with a choice of Lifeline plans.

As a Federal program, Lifeline has important rules for its customers.  The advantage of reading through the Lifeline rules is to acquaint yourself with how the program works. Individuals who qualify receive a valuable benefit from the Lifeline program.

The following six rules apply to any Lifeline provider and any individual who signs up for a plan.

1. Fill out all application forms truthfully

When you sign up for the Lifeline plan and receive services and a free or discounted phone, you must be truthful on the form. Providing any false information on a Lifeline form is against the law.

You also need to fill out any questionnaires truthfully. This includes data sheets sent to you by your provider asking for basic information to verify that you still qualify for Lifeline. You must fill out the forms accurately and to the best of your knowledge. For example, if a questionnaire asks how many people live in your household, do not overstate or understate the number. Fill that line of the questionnaire with the exact number of people who live in your household.

Finally, if you change providers during your time in the Lifeline program, you will need to do a bit of paperwork involving information forms. Fill out all these forms accurately and honestly. Whether the questions are about income, your physical address, the number of household members, or other information, always provide complete, truthful answers to all questions.

2. If your Lifeline-supported service is free, use it at least once every 30 days

You don’t need to use your free or discounted phone every day, but you will need to use it at least one time per month. If you do not, your provider will send you a notice that acts as a sort of 15-day warning to use it or it will be turned off.

3. Only one discount is allowed per household

What is a household? It’s any group of people who share expenses, income, and living quarters. So this rule is rather easy to understand. There is only one Lifeline discount permitted per household. It’s important to understand that you can let other people in your household use your phone. That is not against the Lifeline rules. The main point to remember is – one Lifeline phone per household.

4. You must prove you are eligible for the program

You need to prove that you are eligible to become a member of the Lifeline plan. To do so, you must qualify in one of two ways, by income or by the fact that you receive federal or state assistance. If you receive aid or assistance, you will be asked to provide written proof when you apply for Lifeline. If you do not receive any kind of assistance, then you’ll need to document the fact that your household income is below 135 percent of the federal national poverty level.

5. You need to recertify for the Lifeline program every year

Once each year, your phone provider will send you a text, email, or letter informing you that you have 60 days to “recertify” your eligibility. It’s a quick and routine process and your provider can assist you in understanding the process. However, you need to make sure that it gets done. Otherwise, you can be removed from the Lifeline program.

6. Tell your provider if your information changes

You have 30 days to notify your provider if any of your basic information changes. The key things to remember with this rule are rather simple, however, once you receive the Lifeline benefit, it’s vitally important to tell your provider if you:

  • Stop receiving benefits
  • Have an increase in household income
  • Change your address
  • Gain or lose members of your household (this affects the income calculation for program eligibility)
  • Decide you no longer want to be in the Lifeline plan
  • Decide that you want to change Lifeline providers

If you qualify for Lifeline and want to participate in the Lifeline program, simply follow the rules. You must be honest in the paperwork, only have one phone per household, use your phone each month, maintain your eligibility, reapply once per year, and notify the provider when important information changes, such as your home address.