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Washington Telephone Assistance or Lifeline Program.

Using a combination of federal government and state funds, as well as contributions from telecommunication companies, the Washington Telephone Assistance Program has a goal of providing discounts to low income families on their monthly phone bills. Find how to apply for savings on both cell and home units, and residents of all ages and backgrounds may qualify. In fact, one of the goals of Lifeline (as it is also called) is to ensure senior citizens and the disabled have constant access to some form of communication for medical or other reasons.

Not only will it benefit low income families by helping to reduce their bills and ensure they have access to some type of affordable phone service, but it can also help pay for the installation of a home phone. Or the Washington Telephone Assistance Program can provide discounts on the activation of a cellular phone if that is all that the applicant wants to use. It can also eliminate any deposits that may be due from a provider.

While the exact savings and monthly fees will vary based on many factors and can change over time, some households may be able to receive a home or cell phone for around $10 per month. So this would obviously be a substantial savings from a regular account. However the exact terms and reductions that someone may receive on their bills will vary based on many factors.

When applying for Lifeline, or WTAP, note that it only pay for phone phone per household, regardless of how many people reside at the property. So if someone uses a landline, it will only pay for that and not a cellular phone, or vice versa. It will also not pay for any extra features, such as Voicemail, Caller ID, or any other similar services. However there maybe some type of basic voice mail that comes with the phone and this will be covered as part of the Lifeline program.

In order to qualify for this discount, there are conditions that need to be met. The household must be very low income and meet certain income guidelines that are loosely based on 150 to 200% of federal poverty levels. Or the other way is for the applicant to be receiving some type of federal or state of Washington benefits. They include Temporary Assistance to Needy Family (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Food Stamps, Medicaid, or Disability. Or seniors can even enroll into WTAP if they receive DSHS Chore Services. If these conditions are met then a resident may be eligible.

There are also additional discounts provided as part of Lifeline, or the Washington Telephone Assistance Program, for Native Americans. They will need to reside on a federally recognized reservation and meet some other income levels too in order to benefit from this. So there are some conditions in place other than being on a reservation.





Applying for phone bill or free telephones in Washington

There are a few ways to sign up. The first method is to do directly to your phone company, even if they are a cellular provider. All the companies will participate, even including the major ones such as T-Mobile, Verizon, Cricket, and AT&T among others. Another option is to call the state of Washington DSHS at 1-888-700-8880. They can answer questions and help people apply as well, as WTAP is regulated at the state level. Individuals should have their case number readily available if they call DSHS.

Other assistance on phone bills is provided for residents. After all, the state does regulate phone companies, so staff at the commission (telephone 1-888-333-9882) can answer questions on rules, laws, and obligations too. The will ensure all carriers bill their customers correctly and do not overcharge them for usage or minutes. So families do have many protections in place to ensure they are treated fairly when it comes to their communication needs.

By Jon McNamara

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