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Posted on June 8, 2020

Do I Qualify for a Free Phone and Free Phone Service?

Do you qualify for a free cell phone? You might. In fact, there’s a free government benefit program that offers FREE cell phone service to eligible Americans: the Lifeline program. There are rules for qualifying and another set of rules for staying in the program once you get in it. The Lifeline program is offered by Assist Wireless, who provides both the free phone and the free service.

Who Qualifies for the Program?

To know if you qualify for a free Lifeline phone and Lifeline service, you must meet some specific requirements. Individuals who want free phones are typically low-income individuals or families, many of whom are on various forms of governmental assistance. If not, they can still qualify by having incomes below a particular threshold.

Exact income cutoff levels are different in each state but, for the most part, if your household income is below 135 percent of the federal or state poverty level, you can qualify with a Lifeline provider like Assist Wireless.

If you are interested in applying for the program in hopes of getting free cell phone service, be sure you meet the minimum requirements first. You’ll need documentation of income levels or government assistance before you can get a free smart phone or free phones of any other type.

The basic qualification is that you receive at least one of the following benefits:

If you don’t meet any of the above qualifications, you can still get in the program if your income is below 135 percent of the federal poverty level.

There are some extra ways you qualify if you live on Tribal lands recognized by the federal government:

  • You participate in the Head Start program
  • You receivetribally-administeredTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • You receivegeneral assistance from the Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • You participate in any food distribution program on a qualified Indian Reservation

How Does the Program Work?

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you’ll be entitled to a monthly discount on phone or broadband Internet service, or in many cases, a free phone and free service depending what phone and service package you choose. In any case, eligible participants will at least receive a discount. You only get one line per household and can’t get multiple discounts or multiple free phones but you do get a choice of one wireless or one landline phone number.

How Can I Apply?

You need to first visit https://www.checklifeline.org/lifeline, which is the application system called “national verifier.” It’s a centralized, government-run website that helps establish qualifications of applicants and get them verified to receive free or discounted service and phones. Not every state is set up to allow usage of the verifier system so you might have to contact your provider for more information about how to prove your eligibility and get into the program.

What Basic Rules Should I Know for Staying in the Program?

Every free type of program has rules for those who participate. That means if you qualify for a Lifeline phone and get free cell phone service, you’ll need to abide by a half-dozen guidelines in order to stay in the system and maintain your eligibility. Note that the rules aren’t especially strict, but they are in place to make sure that only eligible participants get free cell phone service and free phones. Namely, you’ll need to

  • Use your Lifeline service at least once per month
  • Get just one free phone per household
  • Prove that you are eligible for the program
  • Fill out the application forms correctly, honestly, and completely
  • Recertify each year to stay in the program
  • Inform the Lifeline provider if any of your essential information changes, particularly eligibility criteria

Keep in mind that it’s relatively simple to get free cell phone service with this government program as long as you qualify. The main thing to remember is that you will have to follow the rules in order to remain in the program. The areas where people usually make mistakes is in filling out the original application, submitting incorrect information, attempting to get more than one phone per household, not using their phones often enough, not notifying the provider when they move or their income changes, not reapplying each year, and not responding to questions from their provider about a change in eligibility.