Government program provides free cell phone services - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Government program provides free cell phone services

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -    90 percent of low-income families in Virginia are missing out on a chance to get a free cell phone with free minutes every month.

The government program, Lifeline, provides help for those struggling to make ends meet.

A lot of people have heard about domestic violence victims getting free cell phones, but this program is for anyone who qualfies.

If you are eligible for programs like food stamps or Medicaid, then you could get a free phone.

It may seem like everyone has a cell phone these days, but it's actually a luxury many can not afford.

The FCC and Universal Service Administrative Company are working to change that.

"I think the main benefit is having access to 911 services -- everyone needs to be able to communicate in case of an emergency," Tom Steinhauser, VDSS Director of Benefits Programs.

The most popular supplier of this service is Safelink, you've probably even seen their commercials.

Safelink provides free cell phones with 68 free minutes each month, but other companies participate in their own ways under the blanket program called lifeline.

"You either get a free or reduced fee on your land line or some companies do provide cell phone services," said Steinhauser.

This program is available to many low income families, but a lack of awareness is leading to a lack of participation.

"Statewide we have a very low participation rate, only about 10 percent of the eligible household participate," he said.

You could get free phone services if you receive other government assistance.

"If they receive assistance from a state program such as tanf, food stamps, which is now snap, or a federal housing program--or if they income is lower than 135% of the federal poverty limit, which is for a family of four would be about $30,000," he said.

For more information on this program, you can visit the Atate Department of Social Services website, linked from the right. The application process will likely take eight weeks.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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