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Arkansas Lifeline program and assistance paying telephone bills.

Low income families in Arkansas can receive a discount on their telephone bills or even a new, free cell phone from government sponsored programs. The Public Service Commission partners with the Federal Communications Commission on Lifeline, which provides monthly savings to households. Another program known as Link-Up offers a discount of up to 50% on the set up of a new account.

The intent is to ensure that all households across the state always have access to communications in an emergency. The assistance will hopefully discourage people from disconnecting their phone if they are struggling to pay the bill. It will hopefully allow every family to be able to afford either a mobile or home phone so they have access to local resources.

The assistance programs tend to be even more important for families that have a low and fixed income. Many seniors in Arkansas as well as the disabled rely on the Lifeline savings in order to keep their telephone activated. The government funded program will even help pay for a portion of their cellular phone bill if they have one. But the program is for anyone that meets income targets, not just the most vulnerable.

Every phone company that operates in Arkansas is required to offer this assistance to their customers. In fact, the telecommunication companies are the ones that process applications and sign up consumers. They follow all guidelines set by the Public Service Commission in Arkansas, and the state agency does regulate it to ensure that all terms and conditions are being followed.

Some telephone companies will even offer Lifeline in combination with their own, customized service. As an example, companies such as Safelink Wireless will often offer a free cell phone to new customers in Arkansas as a result of this government program. Assurance is another provider that offers similar support.

Those are not the only two providers. The major cell phone companies, such as AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint also fully participate. They will offer discounts as part of Lifeline and adhere to all state regulations. No matter which company someone deals with, they will be entitled to savings.

The discount is only for basic, local telephone service. It will not cover long distance costs or some of the additional special features that some households may want. So before signing up for the program, the household should be sure to review the contract closely.





Application process in Arkansas for phone bill programs

To apply for help in Arkansas, low income guidelines need to be met. The scale will change over time, but in general the household income needs to be around 150% of the federal government poverty level. The cut offs will also factor into the number of people that live in the home. So the larger the family, the higher the household income allowed.

Families in Arkansas that receive public assistance can also automatically enroll into Lifeline. This means those families on food stamps, LIHEAP energy bill assistance, SSI, or other benefits will be able to get a discount on their telephone bill. They just need to contact their phone company to request this and also show proof of the benefit.

Only one phone per household is allowed, no matter how many people live in the home or apartment. This means that a family will need to choose between a home or cellular phone. Lifeline does not provide discounts on phone bills on multiple units.

For more information or to apply, households should call their phone company directly. If they think they are being unfairly denied access to Lifeline or the Link-Up program, at that time they should contact the Arkansas Public Service Commission Consumer Services Division at (800) 482-1164.


By Jon McNamara

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