Assistance is provided for both cellular and wire-line telephone service in Idaho. There are two programs available that can help low income families, and they include Lifeline as well as Link-Up. Both of them are part of the ITSAP (Idaho Telephone Service Assistance Program).
Households that are found to be eligible will receive either a monthly discount on future phone bills, or they will get assistance is establishing their service. This means that funds/credits can help them pay for hook up or cell phone activation fees too. The savings available are fairly minimal and may amount to $10-$20 per month. However this can often make a major difference in a household that is living under poverty guidelines, and many very low income families rely on this discount to keep their phone on each month.
ITSAP can pay for one telephone per home. The applicant does have the option as to whether it will cover a cell phone or a so called wireline/landline unit. Note that if a family in Idaho decides to apply the discount to their mobile phone, some companies (including Safelink Wireless) may even offer then a free government telephone if they sign a contract with them.
Many income guidelines are in place. The state of Idaho follows the standard federal government guidelines. This means that in order to get telephone bill assistance from ITSAP, the following criteria are in place. Applicants need to have an income less than 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Or they can be enrolled into some form of public aid program including the following.
The household can be enrolled into Medicaid; SSI - Supplemental Security Income; SNAP Food Stamps; TANF - Temporary Assistance to Needy Families; Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance; LIHEAP Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program; or the National School Lunch Programs Free Lunch Program. Those are the key benefit programs that can qualify a family in Idaho for assistance.
Telephone companies are required to offer these discounts to enrolled customers. This means that if someone has a cell phone from Verizon or AT&T, or a landline from a local telephone company in Idaho, those companies are mandated to participate. There are also some small companies that participate, including Safelink Wireless. Note that customers can call their phone provider to inquire into either Link-Up or Lifeline. Or they can apply for both of them.
Idaho Telephone Service Assistance Program (ITSAP) is paid for using money collected by the Universal Service Fund (USF). Each and every cell phone company as well as local Idaho telephone provider is required to collect fees as part of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). These monies then go to provide savings to very low income families.
Most of the cell and phone bill assistance from ITSAP goes to at risk individuals living in Idaho. This means that many beneficiaries are senior citizens, disabled, homebound or single moms among others. These groups need access to a phone at all times for emergency communication. Without a unit they (and their kids) could be at serious risk if a medical or some other emergency were to arise.
In fact, that is a main objective of the Universal Service Fund. It was intended to ensure that so called vulnerable households always have access to some form of affordable communication service. This means that if a person is living paycheck to paycheck, Lifeline may help them pay for that phone they need. Or Link-Up will help them pay the connection fees.
For more information on the Idaho Telephone Service Assistance Program or to apply, dial a local community action agency in Idaho or try the Department of Health and Welfare in your county. Or call a phone company directly to inquire into the service.
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