Local county DHS offices across Oklahoma partner with phone companies and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide low income families with a discount on their monthly telephone bills. The program, known as Lifeline, was created in an effort to both help prevent a shut off of phone service and also assist with paying any connection fees or deposits.
The savings need to be provided to consumers by all telephone companies that operate in Oklahoma, including they need to also be offered by wireless providers. As part of state regulations and Linkup, there needs to also be some form assistance for the installation fees. In addition, the state of Oklahoma also offers additional discounts to households with a disabled member, as indicated below.
Residents are provided help from the state’s own version of Lifeline, which has been enhanced from what is typically available in other parts of the country. While the exact savings provided can vary from year to year and are based on many conditions, on average a customer will be offered a $7-$10 per month credit on their monthly bill. About 50% of the installation fee is waived as well. The end result is that individuals will need to pay around $10 for month for their basic home phone service.
Cell phone companies also provide a discount as part of Lifeline as well, and the customer service representatives from each provider can let a customer know how much it will be. All companies participate, from the largest such as Verizon and AT&T to the smallest, such as Safelink or Cricket
When applying, the assistance is only for very low income families. They need to either meet the income guidelines or be receiving some form of public aid, including, but not limited to the following. Applicants can be on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Food Stamps, Medicaid, SSI disability, or some other entitlement, such as free school lunches.
To apply, residents need to call their phone company. They process all applications and administer the program on behalf of the state. Or consumers can call 1-800-845-8476 to reach the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Department of Rehabilitation Services or dial the Corporation Commission, Consumer Services Division at 1-800-522-8154 if they feel they were unfairly denied access to Lifeline.
There are additional telephone assistance programs in Oklahoma. They include Enhanced Lifeline Services as well as the Directory Assistance Charge Exemption Due to Disability. These are focused on certain customers.
The disabled can use directory assistance for free, if they qualify for an exception from their phone or cell company. This is intended to help ensure residents can have access to the medical or nutritional care they need, and the discount will be applied to their monthly statement. It also applies for wireless accounts if that is all the household has.
The other option, known as Enhanced Lifeline, will provide a phone to a household for only $1 per month. This will be for basic service only and does not include any additional features, such as call waiting or similar offerings.
This program is also only for people that reside on tribal land in Oklahoma, so it is very specific and targeted. In addition, they need to be low income and receiving assistance from the government, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs general assistance, SNAP Food Stamps, SSI, Tribally administered TANF, Head Start, or others. To learn more on this, be sure to inquire with your phone company and refer to the enhanced Lifeline and/or Link up Program by name.
When applying, proof of income, assets, and any benefits are all required. There will only be at most one discount provided per household, so it can be either for a cellular phone or a landline, but not both. Many of the companies will also require the individual to go to their local DHS county office in order to collect paperwork showing proof of eligibility.
It is also important to note that the Lifeline program is going through constant modifications. Oklahoma is working to ensure that discounts are only provided to qualified families and they are also ensuring that the funding levels for Lifeline are appropriate. Due to this fact, the enrollment period will only be for one year, but participants can always reapply after that time.
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