Programs in New York state provide assistance with both cellular and home phone bills. The federal government created LifeLine service is available to very low income families as well as senior citizens and it can provide them a monthly discount. Another service in New York, Link-Up, will help pay the costs to set up service on a new landline or wireless account.
While the telephone assistance program was originally created by the FCC, it is run locally. Most of the major providers in the state, such as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and others process applications to it. They also can answer questions on whether a customer is qualified or not, and ensure that all low income families that are eligible receive the discount they are entitled too.
Some of what is offered depends on the company that is offering the service. As an example, there are companies such as SafeLink or Assurance that will give a free cellular phone and a certain amount of monthly usage to the household. Some providers, such as AT&T, will only provide the monthly discount. So the terms and conditions will vary based on company.
All companies are required to provide a minimal amount of assistance though. Customers should always call their provider to inquire. What is generally available in New York is as follows.
There needs to be a reduced rate on basic service given to the family. So additional features, such as long distance calling, is not included. In general, the total monthly savings on a phone bill may be as high as $20 per month. There is also a waiver of the federal government mandated line charge, so customers will no longer be responsible for paying that cost.
New York state families can also receive help from this FCC program. It provides financial assistance for the establishment of a new phone, whether home or cellular. There are some funds available or credits given to the customer, and this money will offset some of the expense required to get the service up and running. It can pay for deposits, connection fees, and other costs.
Link-Up was created with the goal in mind that all households should have some form of communication. This is often critical for senior citizens, the disabled, or medically ill in New York. They need to have access to a telephone for emergency use. Or they need a phone just to set up doctor's appointments or to stay in touch with family members for medical reasons. The assistance provided by Link-Up can help them meet this goal.
There are two main conditions in place. They have to do with the total household income levels as well as whether they receive any public aid as well. In general, assistance for wireless service or a landline is available if the total household income is below 150% of poverty guidelines.
Also, discounts on telephone bills from LifeLine are also provided to those on state of New York or federal government benefits. What may qualify a households includes enrollment into Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), TANF welfare, HEAP, Medicaid, any type of disability including SSI, Safety Net Assistance, section 8 or even the National School Lunch Program. Other government aid may also qualify the family for enrollment.
When applying for a telephone program, bring documentation. This includes proof of income, copies of recent federal tax returns, information on child support or social security statement of benefits, and more.
Also, the state of New York will only allow one telephone to be enrolled. So a customer can choose a landline or cellular phone at their home to receive assistance on. But not both types. This will also hold true for the entire household in question.
The customer needs to apply to their phone company. Ask the customer service representative for any assistance provided, both from Lifeline as well as any other programs such as a payment plan. So there are different forms of assistance with phone bills available. If they feel the are being denied enrollment, only then should the New York State Public Service Commission be called, and that phone number is (518) 474-7080.
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