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Missouri Lifeline program and help with telephone bills.

The Lifeline program in Missouri can help lower income families, the disabled as well as elderly with paying for their phone bills as well as any installation costs. The program is regulated by the state and is supported by most telephone companies, both local and national providers. While the government created the program and enforces Lifeline as well as other phone bill assistance programs (cell phone and landline), applications for a discount are processed directly by service providers. There may also be free cell phones for low income households in Missouri.

The savings tend to be for very low income residents, however there is additional support provided to the disabled or senior citizens, as a priority is to ensure that they always have access to some form of affordable communication. Lifeline helps ensure families have the ability to stay connected to their families, doctors, or people they need to call in a crisis.

Types of phone bill help in Missouri

The two main assistance programs in Missouri are Lifeline, which provides discounts on existing service, as well as Link-Up, which can help pay for the installation of a new phone or the activation of wireless service. Funds for these programs come from the Federal Universal Service Fund as well as surcharges that many people need to pay on their monthly bills. The goal is to try to ensure that low income families have some type of phone for emergency use so they can call for medical emergencies.

Participants will be provided a discount on their existing service, but only for standard features and not services such as call waiting. Most companies participate, from cell phone companies such as Cricket or Safelink to national providers including AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. The assistance is also available across Missouri, from rural towns to major cities such as St. Louis.

Missouri has also improved upon the standard federal government funded resource. The state has created their own Universal Service Fund, known as MoUSF, that provides additional discounts for basic local telephone service for both disabled as well as very low income Missouri residents. This can also include senior citizens with a medical condition.





Applications and phone numbers

The application process is extensive. It is based a combination of income levels and whether an individual received some type of public aid, as noted below. Also, if an application is incorrectly submitted or falsified, the family will need to repay the state for any funds they were given for their phone bills.

To apply, call your phone provider (AT&T, Verizon, T Mobile, etc.) and refer to Lifeline. Phone companies process applications or give out free wireless phones. Or if you are establishing a service for the first time, ask them about enrollment into Link-Up. As noted, ensure the application is completed correctly, or there could be future fees due from the participant.

Households in Missouri that receive some type of state or federal aid will automatically qualify, if they have proof of this. Any government benefit will qualify them, but some of the most common include MO HealthNet, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, SNAP food stamps, SSI disability, the free school lunch program, and others. In addition, if the family receives low income housing or section 8, this will also qualify them for the Lifeline program.

The savings will vary based on funding levels and the applicant’s income. Also, the disabled may be able to receive additional savings or free cell phone. However, in general the program will reduce a bill by about $3 to $15 per month, and this is for either a cell phone or a home landline, but not both. For households establishing service, Link-Up may reduce those costs and fees by up to 50%, so the savings for that are significant. More details on getting free cell phones from the government.

Any discount is only for one year, and then the family needs to reapply. It is intended to be a short term solution to those households that qualify. To learn more, call your telephone company and refer to Lifeline.

By Jon McNamara

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