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Virginia LifeLine telephone bill assistance program.

Households that are struggling in Virginia with paying their telephone or even cellular bills can get assistance from Lifeline. The program was created nationwide by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the goal is to ensure that all families, including senior citizens, the poor, and disabled, have access to some form of affordable communication.

Lifeline, which was formally called the Virginia Universal Service Plan (VUSP), will require all applicants to meet income guidelines that are put into place by the state as well as the federal government, and it will be loosely based on poverty levels. Or, in addition to that, anyone that receives any type of public aid will be automatically enrolled into the program, and examples of what may qualify an individual is below.

  • Food assistance - Anyone enrolled into SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), that receives free school lunches, or WIC can enroll.
  • Cash aid - Lifeline is also available for Virginia families that receive TANF or similar support.
  • Disabled - Individuals that receive SSI or Supplemental Security Income can enroll.
  • Other - In addition to those benefits, discounts on monthly phone bills is available households that receive section 8 vouchers, Low-Income Home Energy or Fuel Assistance Program, and even Medicaid.

Individuals that fall into these categories need to let their telecommunication company know this. They will need proof of benefits and other documentation, but if general, receiving those forms of public assistance will qualify a household for a discount on their phone bill.

Only one telephone is covered per home or apartment. It can be a wireless phone or a landline, but the limit is still in place. It does not matter how many people live at the address, so applicants should plan accordingly. The discount from the government is a form of financial assistance for paying the phone bills of low income qualified Virginia households.





Savings and how to enroll

The savings provided can vary, but in general it will be about $10 per month. There may also be assistance in establishing a new service in Virginia. Lifeline only helps pay for basic service as well, and will not cover additional services such as call waiting or ID. It also will not provide any savings to long distance. However, the goal of the program is to ensure people have some access to communication, and it is effective at doing this.

For households that do not currently have a phone, then there can be assistance in establishing an account. Consumers receive a reduction in set up or connection fees, and this applies to both home and wireless activation fees.

Most carriers participate, if they are designated as Eligible Telecommunications Carriers. So this includes companies such as Verizon, AT&T, or Safelink. Call your provider and ask if they participate, or contact the Virginia State Corporation Commission. As noted, both cellular and home telephone can be enrolled, as long as it is not more than one per home.

Some cell phone companies will also offer other benefits to Lifeline eligible customers, as this helps those carriers gain new customers and provides them a source of recurring revenue. This may include such things as free texting service or minutes on a cell phone, and some of the companies that provide this resource may be Safelink or Assurance.

To learn more or apply, call your phone company. They process all applications and can answer questions on the guidelines. The program has started to require additional documentation from applicants, so people should be prepared for this and have proof of income and other benefits. For any other more general information on Lifeline, resident can also call the Virginia State Corporation Commission at 1-800-552-7945, and this government organization can also help resolve any disputes with providers.



By Jon McNamara

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