This free government phone program for poor families was the concept which was thought by President Reagan to provide the poor Americans some way to get in touch with the schools of their children, to contact their prospective employers and get timely help from their health care providers. Clinton started this free cell phones program and brought the Telecommunication Act, 1996. The program continued under Bush and Obama administration. This scheme in the present form is implemented through two programs: Lifeline Assistance and Lifeline Link-Up.
To be eligible for the program an applicant must be below 135 to 150 percent below the Federal Poverty Guidelines depending on the states they live in. Persons participating in other public assistance programs like food stamps. energy assistance, public housing and medical aid are also eligible for this program. Only one person in a family is entitles to get this free Lifeline government phone.
Free phone program is marred by many scams and frauds
Lifeline program has come as a great help to the needy families in the present most difficult time in US history. But the program has come under criticism from the Republicans who feel that the program is being used for getting votes for Obama. This program is also under scanner because many frauds and scams have been unearthed by the Federal Communication Commission and the auditors of the Federal Audit.
A website has reported that thousands of people have been caught for defrauding the government misusing the provisions of the scheme. Under the Lifeline free cell phone program a family is entitled for only one phone, whether cell or landline. While applying for the subsidized phone the applicant has to confirm that he does not already have a Lifeline phone. So, if anyone has procured two phones, he has committed a crime. Let us investigate, how this crime is committed and how the companies have become a part of this big scam? But recently many persons have been found to have procured as many as 40 phones and selling them on various websites at higher rates. A lady was caught defrauding the Lifeline cell phone program had over 40 phones.
People are misusing the program
Clearly, people have learned how to take advantage of the welfare program like this for their personal greed. The Federal Communication Commission has so far found that about 0.70 million people in 12 states have received multiple phones at subsidized costs.
Companies are also involved in the frauds
In most of the cases the frauds have been committed in the knowledge of the service providing companies. In some states the cell phone providing companies are also responsible for overseeing the program. These companies also get $ 10 per month for each person they have enrolled. So, more customers mean more profits to them. To get more customers the companies flout the rules. The Government Accountability Office has till now audited only 5 percent of the Lifeline companies and 76 percent of them have been found involved in the scam.
Federal Communication Commission has taken steps to stop the frauds
In view of these frauds and scams Federal Communication Commission is considering various options to control this problem. This includes banning the guilty consumers from future participation in the program.
The efforts to curb fraudulent practices should be appreciated by one and all so that this most popular welfare program does not die an unnatural death.