Cell Phones for Low-Income Households

I lost my phone today.

I’ve been calling it a handheld computer. I did everything with it. I mean EVERYTHING!

I used it’s calendar and alerts to help me stay on track and on time with all the different appointments, groups, and meetings. I used it’s timer to keep track of when it was time to transfer laundry, track time limits and warnings for both my daughter and myself. I had apps for all of my writing and online interactions. All of my contacts for service providers, friends, and acquaintances. You name it, my phone had that information in it. So, I’m a little freaked out that the phone has gone missing, because whoever finds has access to all of that data.

I’m not afraid of losing the data, because most of it is backed up through the apps themselves and either on this computer or online.

What does concern me most, however, is not having a way to call someone if there’s an emergency with myself or my daughter. There isn’t a way for my adult children to call me if they experience an emergency, either.

I also need a way to call service providers and for them to call me.

I am currently without an income other than SNAP benefits.

Which actually means that I qualify for the Lifeline Program for Low-Income Consumers, a federal assistance program to provide households at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) with either discounted or free phone service via land lines or pre-paid cell phone services.

“To participate in the program, consumers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in one of the following assistance programs:

Federal rules prohibit eligible low-income consumers from receiving more than one Lifeline discount per household.  An eligible consumer may receive a discount on either a wireline or wireless service, but not both.  A consumer whose household currently is receiving more than one Lifeline service must select a single Lifeline provider and contact the other provider to de-enroll from their program. Consumers violating this rule may also be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties.” (Source: http://www.fcc.gov/lifeline)

The Universal Service Adminstrative Company oversees the Lifeline Program. Eligibility can be verified and Service Providers in each state can be located by navigating to: http://www.lifelinesupport.org/ls/.

The following highlights the cell phone providers in Oregon. The cell phones are from pre-paid service providers and the plans vary in what services and quantities they provide to Lifeline customers:

  • Assurance Wireless offers 250 minutes/250 texts each month for free, with other paid-plan options for additional minutes. 800-395-2108
  • AT&T Mobility doesn’t have a free plan, but offers 300 Anytime Minutes /1000 Night & Weekend Minutes with Nationwide Long Distance Included for $12.24/mo. 800-377-9450
  • Cricket Communications offers a $10/mo. discount for eligible customers. 800-975-3708
  • U.S. Cellular does not have a free plan. Paid plans are available for 300 anytime minutes for $29.99 or 700 for $39.99. Both plans have options for receiving unlimited incoming calls from a wide area; it is an additional $6/mo. to add this feature on the 300 min/mo. plan, but is included at no additional cost on the 700 min/mo. plan. Both plans offer wide area night and weekend minutes for an additional $6/mo. Voice Mail, Call Waiting, Caller ID, Call Forwarding, Three-Way Calling and Incoming Text Messages. Wide Area appears to mean nationwide calling. 800-447-1339
  • SafeLink Wireless offers 250 minutes/1,000 texts for free provided by TracFone Wireless. 800-SAFELINK

If you or someone you know is having difficulty maintaining telephone service, is receiving assistance through a qualified federally funded subsidy assistance program OR has a household income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Line, help is available.

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