There are two main programs available for phone bills in Pennsylvania. The first, which is Lifeline 135, is a federal government supported discount that has been enhanced by the state. Another option is the Universal Telephone Assistance Program, and this is more limited but it may be able to offer direct financial assistance for paying bills or assist with preventing disconnections. More information on these services for low income customers are below.
Discounts can be provided by Lifeline 135. All telephone companies in Pennsylvania participate in it, and it can even be used for cell phones as well. Some examples of those companies that support it include CenturyLink Data Services, AT&T, Frontier Communications, Verizon, Sprint, Cricket, and many others. Applicants should call their provider and ask about enrolling into Lifeline is they are not certain whether it is available or not.
When this was created, Pennsylvania started with the standard federal resource and increased the income levels that customers can have. So families that are within about 135 percent of the federal government poverty guidelines may qualify for a discount, and the exact amount of that will vary each year.
However, regardless of the amount of savings provided, it will still help with reducing a households monthly phone bills. So this will make budgeting a little easier for beneficiaries. It will not pay for additional services, such as Caller ID, but a household can always decide to pay for that separately.
Some carriers in Pennsylvania also provide a discount on the cost of installing the new telephone service, with a focus being on a home phone. This is usually offered for those on a limited income with a disability or that are elderly.
The program is also available for households that receive some type of state or federal government benefits. So if someone in the home receives SSI - Supplemental Security Income, grants from Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Medicaid, Food Stamps, or really any other benefits, they may be able to enroll into Lifeline 135.
Anytime someone is applying for one of these resources, proof of income and other supporting documentation is required. If there is anything incorrectly stated during the application process, it can be denied or if someone already has a discount in effect, that will be canceled and may need to be repaid.
Customers will need to reenroll and certify their eligibility each year. So if the government benefits they receive cease or if their income increases, they will no longer be qualified for any type of savings. Not that some cell phone carriers, such as AT&T, may have different income limits in place, and they can advise on those limits if applicable. Lifeline 135 is only good for one phone per household as well.
Another resource available in Pennsylvania is the Universal Telephone Assistance Program, commonly known as UTAP. This is mostly focused on customers that receive their service from Verizon. UTAP can help prevent a shut off of a customers cellular or home phone service, and there is assistance for overdue bills. There may even be funds to help pay for a reconnection if needed. There have been instances in which a senior citizen has benefited from this as it has kept their phone on so they can call for medical appointments or to keep in touch with relatives.
The FCC fully supports Lifeline in the state of Pennsylvania as well. While each company may have their own enrollment policy or slightly different eligibility requirements, there does need to be some type of resources available to low income customers. The FCC will regulate it from a national level and also ensure that all terms and conditions are adhered too, both by consumers as well as the phone companies themselves. To learn more, dial 1-800-692-7380 or check with your current telecommunications provider.
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