US Cellular is the sixth largest network carrier in the United States. It offers free government phones to those qualifying via Lifeline Assurance and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
Lifeline Assurance and the ACP are Federal Communications Commission (FCC) programs to help low-income households meet their connectivity needs. The government provides free phones and affordable services through Lifeline Assurance and the ACP.
But how do you get US Cellular government phones? What are the eligibility criteria to participate in Lifeline Assurance and the ACP? This article explains everything with the view of helping you get a free government phone quickly.
- Step 1: Checking If You're Eligible
- Step 2: Apply for US Cellular Phones
- Step 3: Attach Necessary Documents
- Step 4: Hold on for Approval
How to Qualify for US Cellular Government Phones
Applicants for US Cellular government phones must be eligible for Lifeline Assistance and the ACP. That’s because US cellular only gives out these free phones on behalf of the government. The following are some of the eligibility criteria for free government phones:
1. Low-Income Status
Qualification based on income varies based on whether you’re applying for a free government phone via Lifeline Assistance or the ACP. Here are the income-based eligibility criteria for Lifeline Assistance and the ACP:
You can get a US Cellular government phone via Lifeline Assistance if your income doesn’t exceed 135% of prevailing Federal Poverty Guidelines. In 2022, the poverty guideline for a single-member household is $13,590. Thus, your income shouldn’t exceed $18,346.50.
For every extra family member, the income limit increases by $6,372. So, qualifying for Lifeline Assistance is easier for a multi-member household since the income per person is much lower.
The poverty guidelines differ in Alaska, with the limit for a single-member household set at $16,990. Thus, the lowest income limit for Lifeline Assistance applicants is $22,936.30. There is an additional $7,330.50 for any other household member.
In Hawaii, the poverty guideline for a single-member household is $15,630. So, if you live alone, you would need an annual income of $21,100.50 to qualify for Lifeline Assistance. An additional household member leads to a $7,330.50 increase in the income level.
Affordable Connectivity Program
You may apply for the ACP once you get enrolled for Lifeline Assistance. However, to register in the ACP as a first-time applicant, your income must be under 200% of current federal poverty guidelines.
Based on the 2022 poverty guidelines for 48 states, you need a $27,180 annual income in a single-member household to enroll. An additional household member makes the income level increase by $9,440.
Residents of Alaska have a different set of poverty guidelines that puts the single-member family income limit at $33,980. If you’re in a two-member household, you should have a $45,780 income. So, an additional household member raises the limit by $11,800.
Based on the poverty guidelines for Hawaii, the income limit for a one-member household is $31,260. A two-member household’s income limit is 42,120, indicating a $10,860 shift.
2. Participation in Government Assistance
If you participate in a government assistance program, you can get a US Cellular free government phone. Some eligible programs include Medicaid, Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit.
Another program that applies to everyone is the Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA). ACP-only programs include Pell Grant, Free or Reduced-Price Breakfast, or Lunch Program. The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) SNAP also applies to the ACP.
3. Federal Lands Assistance
Tribal Lands residents can also get a US Cellular government phone if participating in particular programs. Examples include Tribal Head Start, Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF), Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, and Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
States Offering US Cellular Government Phones
US Cellular offers free government phones in several States across the U.S. In some states, its services are widespread, with more than 20 locations. However, in others, the network carrier is available on only a few sites. The following are the top ten states where you can get a US Cellular free government phone:
- North Carolina
- New Hampshire
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
How to Apply for US Cellular Government Phones
US Cellular provides a straightforward way to apply for a government phone. The following are the steps you should take when applying for a US Cellular free phone:
Step 1: Checking If You’re Eligible
Do you qualify for a US Cellular government phone? You cannot know for sure without checking. The best place to do that is via the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) National Verifier. You only need to enter basic information to search and find out your eligibility status.
Step 2: Apply for US Cellular Phones
Once you’re particular about your eligibility for a US Cellular government phone, you can apply for it. The company provides a simple application procedure that involves calling them at 1-800-447-1339. You may use that phone number to ask about the US Cellular Lifeline plans or apply for a free government phone.
Step 3: Attach Necessary Documents
Your application for US Cellular government phones is not complete until you attach the necessary documents. Essentially, you should attach documents proving your identity, address, low income, and participation in a government assistance program.
To prove your identity, you may attach a Driver’s License, U.S. Passport, Birth Certificate, Foreign Passport, or Certificate of Naturalization. Also, any ID issued by the Federal or state government, Tribal entity, or military would do. A proof-of-identity document should essentially show your name and social security number (SSN).
You must supply US Cellular with your address and documents proving the same. Of necessity, the details in your application form should match those on the proof-of-address documents.
You may attach a Driver’s License, Current Utility Bill, Current Mortgage or Lease Agreement, Paycheck Stub, W2, Current income Statement, or an ID by a Tribal entity, state, or Federal government.
It is not enough to state that you have a low income. Providing documents proving the same can give US Cellular a positive review for your application for a government phone.
One of the ways to prove a low income is to provide tax returns issued to a Tribal entity, state, or federal government.
Other proof-of-income documents include social security, worker’s compensation, veterans’ administration, and pension or retirement statements of benefit.
Your current paycheck stub, income statement, child support, and divorce decree would also do.
Proof of Benefit from Government Assistance
Does any of your household members participate in a government assistance program? If so, you must provide documents proving the same. It could be something as simple as the current or previous year’s statement for a Tribal, state, or federal program under Lifeline Assurance or the ACP.
Most assistance programs may issue a letter of participation to qualified individuals. If you have such a letter, don’t hesitate to attach it to your application.
Alternatively, you may provide any document proving your participation in such programs. However, ensure that your document has your full name, the program name, and the name of the issuing entity (Tribal, state, or Federal).
Besides the document above, emancipated minors should attach documents proving that they no longer live under the custody of an adult. Necessary documents include a certificate of emancipation or court documents.
When attaching documents to your application for US Cellular government phones, use pictures for the online application and photocopies for the mail-in application. After all, you’ll need to use the original documents later on.
Step 4: Hold on for Approval
When US Cellular approves your application, you cannot control how fast they do it. But, once they finish, the company will send you an email notification. You can then wait to receive your phone after seven or so days. If the wait seems too long, call US Cellular at 1-800-447-1339.
US Cellular Phone Plans
US Cellular has both prepaid and postpaid options for its customer. The following are three of the company’s main phone plans:
- Even Better Plan: For $70 monthly, this single-lone plan offers 50GB priority data on unlimited data, 30GB mobile hotspot data, and A Redbox movie night for two.
- Everyday Plan: For $65 per month, you get unlimited data with a priority of up to 25GB, 15GB hotspot data, and one Redbox movie night.
- Basic Plan: For $55 per month, you get unlimited texts, talk, and data. You can stream videos in standard definition via your phone.
On the other hand, all prepaid US Cellular plans have unlimited talk time and texts. Here is what you can expect from the prepaid plans:
- Unlimited Plus: For $65 per month, you get 25GB priority data, 20GB of hotspot data, unlimited texts and talk-time, and one Redbox movie night.
- Unlimited Plan: You pay $55 per month and get bare-bones benefits like unlimited data, talk-time, and texts, without hotspot data.
- Basic Plan: The basic plan is available for $40 per month and provides 15GB of data and unlimited texts and calls.
Benefits of US Cellular Lifeline Assistance/ACP
Customers who get US Cellular government phones automatically enroll in Lifeline Assistance, ACP, or both discounts. Therefore, they enjoy subsidized phone services that come with the following benefits:
- Free unlimited texts
- 1,000 minutes talk-time
- 500MB of data for $15 per month
- 2GB of data for $25 per month
- Call forwarding
- Three-way calling
- Caller ID
- Call waiting
- Voice mail
Restrictions for US Cellular Government Phones
When applying for US Cellular government phones, you may have to conform to particular restrictions laid out by Lifeline Assistance and the ACP. Here are some of the things you must observe:
- The Lifeline Assistance and ACP benefit are not transferrable to anyone. So, you can’t transfer it to a friend or family member.
- You can only get one Lifeline and ACP discount in your household. Therefore, two or more members cannot apply for the discount.
- Only those meeting the eligibility criteria can enroll for Lifeline Assistance and ACP.
- A household may receive Lifeline Assistance and ACP benefits from one provider. So, you can’t apply to multiple providers.
- You must keep using your Lifeline Assistance and ACP discount once a month. The network provider may withdraw if a month passes without using it.
- After getting the Lifeline Assistance and ACP discount, you must renew it annually to keep using it.
The Bottom Line
US Cellular government phones are available to those qualifying for Lifeline Assistance, the ACP, or both. Your income to qualify for a government phone should be at a given level. Or, you or a family member should participate in a government assistance program.
Besides the free government phone, US Cellular offers attractive service discounts. So, you can get unlimited texts, 1,000 minutes of talk-time, and data, depending on whether you qualify through Lifeline Assistance or the ACP.
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