How To Get A Free Cell Phone For Low Income Families [2022]

We live in an era where cell phones have become a must-have commodity for every individual or household. As technology continues to advance rapidly, many phone companies are increasing the capabilities of their devices. This has made phones more than just communication devices. 

However, most low-income families cannot afford to purchase a phone or pay for its services. This article elaborates on how to get a free cell phone for low income families or individuals. Luckily, the US government understands the need for all its citizens to possess a decent cell phone. 

The government has formulated programs to ensure that everyone owns a phone and receives a wireless service, even if they are financially incapable. This is similar to other programs that provide relief to low-income families in other health, nutrition, and clothing sectors. This program is known as the Lifeline Assistance program.

Lifeline Program And What It Entails

The Lifeline Assistance Program is a Federal Government assisted program initiated in 1985 and operates to date. It is operated by the Federal Communication Commission and funded by the Universal Service Fund.

Originally, the program ensured that all low-income families had no trouble settling their landline bills, such as the one for installation and service provision. Over time, the government engaged wireless service providers in the program to help provide a free cell phone for low income households. 

Through its administrative wing, the program collects data on low-income families in each State before determining the number of funds to be disbursed to cushion them. It has ensured that thousands of Americans receive efficient phone services despite their financial background.

Free Cell Phone For Low Income Families Guiding Criteria

Every time the government comes up with a program that cushions low-income households or any disadvantaged groups, they have to set clear qualification criteria in place. This is to ensure that only the disadvantaged receive the help they are providing. 

Without these guidelines, anyone can take advantage of these programs. Similarly, the Lifeline Assistance program follows these strict guidelines, altered yearly depending on the data collected for that year. These qualification criteria are called the poverty guidelines and are used to gauge the level of income of each family.

The poverty guidelines vary slightly for Alaska, Hawaii, and the 48 states. If you want to apply for a free cell phone for low income families, you have to meet all the criteria put in place by the FCC. You can check if you meet all the qualification criteria here: Lifeline check. Below are some of the guidelines:

1) Minimum Age

You cannot apply for a free cell phone from the government through their Lifeline Assistance Program if you haven’t attained the age of 18 years. The lifeline program applies to adults only.

2) Income Criteria

This is one of the most important criteria as it weeds out people who want to take advantage of the Lifeline Support Program. You are required to show that your yearly wages are lower than 135% of the recommended poverty guidelines. 

3) Yearly Renewal

If you qualify for the Lifeline Assistance Program, a yearly renewal of your subscription is needed. Every year, the data for people living below the poverty line changes, so the government will need you to show that your income is still insufficient to support phone services.

4) Regular Usage Of The Discount

If you’re enrolled in the Lifeline Assistance Program, active usage of their services is one of the factors considered. This shows them that you, indeed, needed the services. Failure to use the service once every month will lead to the termination of your account. Before this, they will give you a 15-day notice.

5) One Member Per Household

The rules state a free cell phone for low income families can only be offered to one member of the family. Two or more members from the same household cannot apply for the Lifeline Support.

6) Update Your Details ASAP

If you relocate to a different place and your address or any other vital details changes, you need to contact your Lifeline service provider and inform them. This will enable them to edit the information in their database. If you don’t do this within 30 days, you will not enjoy free wireless services from the provider.

If you’re not income-eligible to receive a free cell phone, you may still qualify if you’re enrolled in any one of these government-assisted programs:

  1. Social Security Disability
  2. Medicaid
  3. Federal Pell Grant
  4. Food Support, for example, SNAP( Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
  5. Assistance for finances, for example, TANF (Temporary Assistance For Needy Families).
  6. Housing assistance, for example, FPHA( Federal Public Housing Assistance).
  7. Supplemental Security Income(SSI).

How To Apply For A Free Cell Phone For Low Income Families?

Free Cell Phone For Low Income Families

Before you can receive your free cell phone, you have to go through a standard procedure for application. Fortunately, these steps are easy and do not differ too much from other government-assisted programs application. Summarized below are the three crucial steps:

1) Qualifications Criteria Check

As we mentioned above, you cannot begin applying for a free cellphone if you don’t meet the criteria. You will need to provide supporting documents to show that you come from a low-income family or household.

2) Picking A Cell Phone Service Provider

If you have determined that you meet all the eligibility criteria, you can proceed to pick a service provider that offers free cell phones. Different Service Providers offer different types of free cell phones and wireless services.

First, you need to find out all the Wireless Service Providers available in your State. Next, look at their deals and choose one.

3) Send Your Application

Once you’ve settled on a particular Wireless Service Provider, the next thing is to enroll with them. Most of these providers give you the option of enrolling on their online sites. You can also send your application by mail or drop your documents physically at their offices. Either way, your application will be received in due course.

All of your application documents should be accompanied by supporting documents. If your application is successful, you will receive your phone in a few days and can start using its services.

The Documents Required For Lifeline Free Cell Phone

There are a few documents that your chosen Service Provider will need you to submit before offering you the free cell phone. The documents outlined below have been categorized into three groups:

a) Government Assistance Program Documents

The first set of documents that you need to present to your wireless provider are documents that prove you are a participant in a government-assisted program. Copies of acceptance letters or membership cards will suffice most of the time. The only requisite is that the documents prove your participation in the current year.

b) Income-Proof Documents

These documents show that your earnings cannot allow you to purchase a good cellphone or maintain a cell phone service. Some of the documents are A copy of your current year’s tax returns, income statement for the current year, and child support documents.

c) Identity-Proof Documents

Every service provider must verify that the person applying for a free phone is legitimate and has the documents to back it up. Examples of these documents are a valid passport and an ID card.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Which Free Cell Phone Can I Expect From Service Providers?

Most service providers offer mid-range phones to their Lifeline customers. They may not be the best in the market in terms of capability, but they serve their function well. These include phones like Samsung Galaxy A20, Motorola G power, and LG Stylo 5. If you want a superior device such as the Samsung Galaxy S20, be prepared to splash some cash.

Can I Swap SIM cards On Free Cell Phones?

Yes, you can. So long as the cell phone is unlocked. Most service providers lock their phones so that you can only use their service, so before you can use a different SIM card, you will need to unlock the phone first.

Can My Free Cell Phone Be Upgraded?

If you use your free cell phone for a while and later feel like you need to upgrade it to a newer model, you can approach your service provider. They will check if they have the newer version in-store before offering it. However, this will not be completely free; you may be required to add some cash.

Which Service Providers Offer The Best Free Cell Phones?

Some of the top companies that offer free phones to low-income families are SafeLink Wireless, Access Wireless, Budget Wireless, Assurance Wireless, and ReachOut Wireless. However, you should look up if they are present in your State and if what they offer fits your needs.

Final Verdict

Thanks to the Lifeline Assistance Program, a free cell phone for low income families has become more accessible. If you want to access some of these phones and continuous cellular services, look up some of the wireless providers close to you.

Many wireless providers offer Lifeline cell phones. Check if you qualify to get a free phone from them and make your application. Ensure that you keenly compare their plans and pick the best one for you and your family.

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