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Help with phone bills in Utah.

There are two main programs that low income families and the working poor can get assistance with their telephone bills from. Lifeline is focused on cell or wireless units, and the main agency to contact is the Public Service Commission or your telecommunications provider. Another option is UTAP, or the Utah Telephone Assistance Program, and this is focused on providing monthly discounts on landlines, or home phones.

The two resources were created by the federal government FCC in an effort to ensure that families across the state have some type of access to communication, in particular the most vulnerable, which includes senior citizens or the disabled in the state. Lifeline and other discounts are subsidized on a monthly basis by fees that all households pay on their bills, and the net result is that people that are accepted into these savings programs will receive a reduced rate on their bills.

In many cases, there will also be assistance provided in establishing a new telephone account as well, and this can be referred to as Link-Up in Utah. Customers will have some fees or installation costs reduced, and they may have their account set up at a reduced rate.

In order to apply for help, customers will need to meet low income guidelines. Or, they may automatically enrolled into UTAP if they are on some form of public benefits, as noted below. Call the state of Utah or your phone provider for more information or questions. But the eligibility criteria are generally as follows.

The conditions for UTAP include income levels that are slightly greater than poverty guidelines. Or, someone in the household may be receiving some form of public benefit, which can include the following. If a resident is enrolled into National Free School Lunch, Medicaid, SNAP food stamps, HEAT, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, or really any other benefit, then they can enroll. Applications are processed directly by the state, and for more questions on the Utah Telephone Assistance Program, dial 1-800-948-7540.

In some cases, individuals with a hearing challenge or that are deaf can also receive support. They may be offered assistive devices or a hearing aid, if they meet disability guidelines. This will also be combined with savings on their monthly phone bills, and the number to call is Relay Utah, and the number is (801) 526-9240.





Discounts on cellular telephones are also provided by Lifeline, and this is managed both by phone companies as well as Public Service Commission. There are many different companies that participate, including, but not limited to Sprint, Access, Assurance Wireless, AT&T, Verizon, Safelink, T Mobile, and many others. In fact, almost every carrier is required to participate, so feel free to call and request more information from them.

No matter which program someone is applying to, a discount is only offered for at most one phone per home, whether it is a cellular or home unit. A household is defined in Utah as being everyone (including children, senior citizens and people who are not related to you) who live at an address and share expenses, rent, and income as well. So a telecommunications company will only allow savings on one landline or wireless phone.

The total amount of savings and any discounts will vary, but it will normally be around $10 to $15 per month. Some companies that operate in Utah, such as Safelink, will provide other benefits to consumers, such as unlimited texts or similar services. But individuals need to ask the provider about those, as these are not mandatory in Utah.

To request an application or to enroll, call your phone company and speak to a customer service representative. Other options for individuals that are interest in cell phones is to dial the Utah Public Service Commission, and their number is 801-530-6716.



By Jon McNamara

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