Customers in North Carolina can receive help on an existing phone as well as establishing new service from Lifeline. The state participates in the federal government funded FCC program to provide consumers with savings on the basic surcharge on their account. In addition to that, some low income families may also receive help in establishing new service, and the Linkup program will help pay for those costs.
The assistance tends to only be for very low income households in North Carolina. The income limits will be around 150% of federal government poverty guidelines. In addition to that criteria, there may also be discounts provided to customers that receive some form of public assistance, such as SNAP food stamps or those that are enroll into LIHEAP as noted below. The exact conditions will be determined by the federal Universal Service Fund as well as the state.
The intent of Lifeline is to ensure that all residents have access to some form of communication, especially during a crisis. So there is also priority given to senior citizens, families with very young children, and the disabled. The end result is that a family that is struggling will still be able to place a phone call in an emergency.
The program will also only pay for one phone per residence, such as a cell or a more standard, home telephone / landline. A maximum of one discount per household is permitted by the state, regardless of the number of people in the home or the number of wireless devices they own. This is further defined as either one person or a group of individuals living at the same address.
The amount of the discount provided will vary based on a number of conditions, but in North Carolina it will average about $10 per month, however the disabled or Native Americans may receive further savings. It also only applies to local telephone service and not any long distance charges. While there can be some waiving of fees or costs involved in establishing new service, this will vary as well. The discount only lasts for one year, then someone can reapply if they want.
As noted, low income guidelines are in place. However, households that are on public assistance can also enroll. It is for residents those that receive SSI, Medicaid, rent help from Section 8, Energy Assistance (LIHEAP), Work First Family, Food Stamps, National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Programs, General Assistance, Head Start (if income eligibility is met), and State of North Carolina Assistance programs, or SA. So in general the applicant can be facing poverty or on benefits, and in either case they may be able to enroll into Lifeline.
Applications are reviewed and processes by the phone companies themselves. All companies participate, including, but not limited to AT&T, Verizon, Crickets, US Cell, Sprint, SafeLink and even non-traditional providers such as Wal-Mart. Therefore, to apply for Lifeline, you need to call your provider. They can also answer any further questions.
North Carolina also provides additional Native American Discounts. It is for those families that live on federally recognized tribal lands, such as some of those properties or counties in the western portion of the state. If they meet all other conditions of the program, clients may qualify for an additional Lifeline discount of up to $30 per month on the local portion of their bill. Native Americans can also receive financial aid in paying for a new phone and connecting it.
It can also be combined with other benefits as well. Native Americans in North Carolina are eligible for both Lifeline and Link-Up if they receive Tribally Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Bureau of Indian Affairs general assistance, or if they have a child enrolled into Head Start. Another program which will qualify them is the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).
To apply for Lifeline, call your phone company. If an application has been illegally denied, the North Carolina Department of Social Services can provide additional support, and they can be reached at 919-527-6335.
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