Oregon Lifeline telephone assistance program.
Families across Oregon that receive some form of government benefits or that are considered to be low income can save money on their telephone or cell bills from Lifeline. The exact dollar amount of the discount provided will vary, but it will generally be around $15 per month, and the household can also receive help in paying for the connection fees on a new service or the activation costs of a cellular phone.
The state also calls it OTAP, or the Oregon Telephone Assistance Program, but no matter what it is called by residents, it is equivalent to the federal government sponsored Lifeline program. The reason this was created was to ensure that all families, regardless of their income, have some type of access to a phone for emergency or making basic calls.
To apply for assistance, call your phone or cellular provider directly, as they process applications. If there are disputes or if someone is being unfairly denied, then the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) can be contacted, as they manage OTAP. This government affiliated agency can step in and try to resolve any disputes, review applications, or do whatever else may be required.
In general, while conditions may change, people need to meet the following conditions. Note that proof of all of this will be required from the applicant.
- Someone from the household needs to be on public benefits, and this can include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), SSI - Supplemental Security Income, SNAP food stamps, Medicaid, or they need to have a child in Head start or receiving a free school lunch. Other benefits may include Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) or Section 8 Public Housing Assistance.
- Low income levels need to be met too. The household, including all members, need to have a total income of 135% of poverty guidelines or less. This threshold can change on a yearly basis though.
Dozens of phone companies will pass the discount on to their customers, and call your provider. Some of the cell or home phone companies that participate in Oregon include, but are not limited to, AT&T, Clear Creek, Frontier, Sprint, Cricket, Oregon Telephone Corp., Pioneer, Verizon, Pine Telephone, and many others. Some companies, such as Assurance Wireless, will even provide free minutes or text message to Lifeline enrollees.
When applying, applicants need to have proof of income, residence, identification, or government benefits. The national program has been under scrutiny, so the application process has been strengthened and additional documentation may be needed. As noted, the person’s wireless or telephone provider will process applications and can provide details.
Only one phone is covered per residence, so it can be a cell or home unit. It doesn’t matter how many people live there, the limit is still in place, so people need to plan accordingly. Also, Lifeline can even provide assistance to individuals with more of a temporary address, such as someone in a shelter or a senior citizen that lives in a nursing home. So the program is flexible.
Any discounts only last for one year, and then the individual will need to reapply. So Lifeline is a short term discount in Oregon, and it is intended to provide temporary relief to a struggling household so they have time to improve their overall financial condition.
If someone does need more information or is encountering barriers in applying for this service with their phone company, then they can dial 1-800-848-4442 to reach Oregon Public Utility Commission. Representatives will ensure each state resident is treated fairly and can even provide information on other options that may be available to them.