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Many people think the The Lifeline Assistance Program came about under the Obama administration. Well guess what? You are dead wrong. This program has actually been around since 1985. That’s right, its been around for almost 30 years. It originally started out as a discount home phone service program.

However, with more and more people opting for cell phones instead of home phones, the Government decided to expand the program to include prepaid wireless service for low income consumers. This option came about in 2005. This program is a part of the Universal Service Fund and is available to low income consumers in every state.

To qualify for the program your income must be at or below 135 percent the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If you do not meet that guideline you must be in a qualifying state, federal or Tribal assistance program. Some of the qualifying assistance programs include:

Medicaid
SSI
National School Free Lunch Program
Federal Public Housing Assistance
And much more….

Please note that each household can only receive one Lifeline discount. You get to choose which discount you want. It can either be for home phone service or wireless.  You cannot get both. If you are currently receiving more than one Lifeline assistance discount, you must immediately contact one of the programs and de-enroll.

If you violate this rule you may be subject to criminal penalties, civil penalties or both.

The USAC, or the Universal Service Administrative Company, administers the Lifeline program. They are responsible for collecting data, the maintenance of the program, support calculation and disbursement. To find out more about the low income program you can visit their website at http://www.usac.org/li/getting-service/applying.aspx.

In January 2012 the Lifeline program underwent both reform and modernization. The FCC created things such as an eligibility database, a National Lifeline Accountability Database and interim flat rates of reimbursement to ensure the program runs effectively and efficiently.

And while there are varying opinions on whether or not the program should even exist, truth be told it has helped millions of people. Providing low income families with affordable phone service aids in the job hunting process. When you don’t have a phone its very difficult to be contacted when someone wants to hire you.

But that’s not all the Lifeline program helps with. It also helps seniors stay connected with their families and get the help they need in emergency situations. With the lifeline program the percentage of low income families with phone service increased from 80 percent in 1985 to 92 percent in 2012.

The program without a doubt has some big advantages as well as some big disadvantages. If the FCC continues to reform the program and monitor how its being used, they should be able to reach their goal of saving $3 billion on the program over the next 3 years.

They will do this by eliminating waste such as multiple carriers being paid for the same subscriber, catching fraud before it happens and making sure the system isn’t being abused.