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Free government phones in California and assistance paying phone bills.

There may be free government cell phones, wireless devices or financial aid to pay bills or discounted services from the California Lifeline program. Combining both the state and federal government resources, the low income assistance program is available for income qualified households across the state. It will provide customers with a reduced rate on their monthly cell or home phone bills. Or find how to get free phone that the government pays for or Lifeline assistance below.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has implemented this telephone discount program for low income families nationwide, and California has also adjusted it to meet the particular needs of their residents. There is also some additional support provided for the disabled or deaf as part of LifeLine. So this partnership between the state and federal government have, if anything, enhance it and made it even more effective than it would have otherwise been.

The program is generally for residents that meet certain low income guidelines or that receive some form of state or federal government benefits, including CalFresh, CalWorks or other benefits. The application process is also in depth, and proof of income, expenses, number of household members and other information will be required as well. The discounts provided on your monthly telephone bills will only be available for either a cell phone or a home service, but not both. More information on the terms of LifeLine are below.

Applying for the LifeLine discount program

In California, the program is a little more comprehensive. Those households that receive government aid, such as Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, CalFresh, SSI - Supplemental Security Income, TANF, or CalWORKs may qualify for a free cell phone or wireless device. There are many other benefits that apply as well, even including families with a child enrolled into Head start of free school lunches. In general, if the household receives any type of income support from the state of California or the federal government, then they will more than likely be qualified for LifeLine.

Even those families that are not enrolled in some type of public aid program can still receive a discount on their monthly phone bills or a free device. However, they will need to meet the income conditions that are in place. While the range can change from year to year, it will normally be for a household with an income under $28,000 per year, if they have two members living in the home. For each additional person that lives at the residence, the approved income can range increase by about $7,000 per person. However these are general guidelines and terms can and do change.





For those that think they may be qualified, they will need to call a cell phone carrier or other provider. So companies such as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or others will actually need to handle the application process and will need to pass on the savings. There are also many smaller providers of the LifeLine service in California, and examples of them will be MCI, Freechoice, Matrix, Budget Mobile, Excel and many others. More details on the companies that can provide a discounted cell phone can be obtained from the customer service number below.

It will take time for the administrators to review and approve any applications. During that period, customers may be provided with access to payment plans to pay for any connection costs, such as deposits, fees, or any other expenses that are required by the phone company. There may also be a waiting period involved before the person is provided with a free or low cost cell phone, so please plan accordingly. Then, if and when the application has been approved, the costs will be reimbursed to the applicant as part of LifeLine.

There some basic service levels that cellular companies need to meet as well per the terms of the LifeLine program. The customer needs to have adequate coverage and signal strength in their area. If they do not, then they can cancel their phone service. Or if they are using a home phone, then the service needs to be consistently maintained. If a customer is not happy with the quality of what they were provided with, they do have some termination rights if they decide to cancel within about 14 days.

Even if someone is provided a discount or a free home or cell phone (smart device or touchtone), they will also need to renew the LifeLine service every year. This is required as part of the program. So the various income conditions, or access to benefits, will need to be satisfied each year.





Applying for phone bill assistance or a free government phone in California

For more information, dial 1-866-272-0349. Customer service is available in California as part of LifeLine in multiple languages, including Spanish, Korean, and Chinese. Representatives can answer information on program terms, give details on how to get a free phone or financial aid to pay a monthly bills. Or learn about the  application process in California.


By Jon McNamara

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