A free phone for seniors seems unlikely. In reality, though, many seniors can apply for and receive a free cell phone, along with a free monthly cell phone plan.
Seniors having a cell phone seems almost a necessity to many. Mainly, due to emergencies. Given that so many people have limited income (especially since so many older people are on social security), cell phones might be low on the list of things they can buy. That’s where the program that provides free phones for seniors could be a real blessing.
The federal program called “Lifeline” was created to provide cell phones or free home phone service for anyone for emergencies; this is especially important for seniors. The Lifeline program provides a free cell phone and free minutes every month.
Anyone who is eligible can apply for the program. If you already receive assistance from the federal government or if your income is equal to or less than 135% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can qualify for the program. This program provides a free phone for seniors or anyone else meeting these requirements.
The Lifeline program has many different carriers, which will offer different phones and monthly plans for seniors.
Free phone for seniors eligibility and restrictions
Requirements may vary by state, but you must meet the income guidelines or participate in one of the following programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
- National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF)
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
- Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met)
- State assistance programs (if applicable)
As mentioned above, you have to qualify for a free cell phone or cell phone plan. In addition, there are rules that have to be followed to get and keep your free phone for seniors. For instance, you are not allowed to have more than one per household. And, you can use the program to get a cell phone OR a home phone, but not both.
The Lifeline program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company. It is funded by the Universal Service Fund. Please visit their website for the program’s full details.
Free home phone service
Lifeline also offers free home phone service. This program will cover the cost of your monthly home phone service. The free home phone service is particularly beneficial for seniors who are not interested in or cannot easily use a cell phone.
Free phone for seniors service providers
Some of the service providers for the Lifeline program are SafeLink Wireless, ReachOut, US Cellular, Assurance Wireless and many others. These and other providers offer a free phone for seniors who qualify, along with a monthly plan. Some providers may also offer upgrades or options for these plans. See the plan details at each provider’s website.
If you don’t qualify for this program and would still like to get a cell phone, there are other options available. Many phone companies offer prepaid or low minute programs, along with cell phones, for those that just need basic service.
History of Lifeline
The original program was created to provide free home phone service for low income families. Later, in 2005, the program was updated to include a cell phone and monthly cell phone plans. In 2012, the program was upgraded and improved.
Due in part to the Lifeline program, access to phone service has risen from 80% in 1985 to 92%.
Federal Communications Commission
Universal Service Administrative Company
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