The federal government FCC, state of Indiana, and telephone companies across the state participate in Lifeline. It is the nation’s main low income assistance program for addressing a household’s communication needs, and the intent of it is to ensure that families have some form of access to a phone for an emergency.
There are a couple main components to this particular benefit, and they include both discounts on existing service as well as help in establishing a new account, and this is known as Link-Up. While the state regulates it through the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, any resident that wants to apply for assistance needs to contact their phone company directly for an application.
All providers in the state participate, from the biggest companies such as AT&T to smaller providers, including Safelink. As noted, both wireless and standard providers will also offer the discount to those who qualify. Companies that only offer cable service as a form of Internet phone must also provide the Lifeline discount program if the applicant meets all other conditions.
Savings are passed on by local telephone companies directly to the customer. Or for those households that have cut the cord to their landline and are wireless only, there may be some discounts on a cellular account too, but this is only for income qualified residents.
In order to apply, income targets need to be met. Or someone in the family needs to be receiving public assistance, such as the examples noted below. All lifeline applications in Indiana need to be submitted directly to the phone company, as they are fully involved in the process and will review them.
For households that receive one or more of the Indiana or federal benefits identified here, they will be automatically qualified for a discount. Applicants can receive Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Section 8 state of Indiana Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or even if a child gets a free lunch at school, they may qualify. However they will still need to formally request and apply for the savings.
Or, for families that not receive government aid, they may still qualify for help with their phone bills. The total household income needs to meet guidelines of about 150% of federal poverty guidelines. However the Department of Health and Human Services or your phone company can provide the most recent thresholds. Proof of this will also be required.
Once again, call your telephone company to apply for Lifeline, or to get more details. Proof of everything will be required as part of the process, whether it is income or the receipt of benefits. Only a home or cellular phone can be enrolled, not both, and it doesn’t matter how many people live in the home. Still, only one unit is allowed to be enrolled for residence.
The discount will last for only one year, and it will more than likely be less than $15 per month. The savings to connect a phone are limited too, and that may be about 50% of the connection fees. So the customer will still need to contribute towards their monthly phone bills, and this is not a free program.
If you apply and think are being unfairly denied enrollment in Lifeline, then this is when the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor may be able to help. Their role is to ensure all people are treated fairly. They oversee and are involved in regulating many state and federal programs, including Lifeline.
The organization, also known as OUCC, can be called at 1-888-441-2494. While the main office is at 115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South, Indianapolis, IN 46204, consumers should always call first to get their questions answered.
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