The Lifeline Program: Affordable Phone Services for Poor Families

Affordable Phone Services for the PoorThe middle class is shrinking and more people are struggling to stay above the poverty level than ever before. The number of people with residential phone services are declining in poor neighborhoods increasing a reliance on mobile cell phone service. What happens when people who are struggling to obtain the basic needs such as food, water, and shelter do in cases of an emergency without the ability to call for help? The government has developed a lifeline to help keep families connect to the outside world who can not afford phone services.

Cell phone services and residential phone services may be an expense that the poor may sacrifice in order to meet their basic needs. There is a governmental program that is design to help struggling Americans obtain phone service in certain situations. The program is focused on helping poor people retain their phones when they might be tempted to go without it in times leaving them more vulnerable in an emergency situation.

Why Go Through the Trouble?

The idea is that it’s far too dangerous for families to have no connection with the outside world. If they get cut off for some reason, such as due to a snowstorm, they will be unable to get any help. Any such emergency that occurs in a neighborhood needs people to report it in order for the emergency services to become involved. Keeping families connected through phones during a national emergency is in the government’s best interests too.

Lifeline Program Overview

The government assisted service is called the Lifeline Program. It provides discounts on either a traditional landline or a wireless telephone service to those that may qualify. The discounts tend to average at around 9 dollars a month, though it could be substantially more based on the particular state and the individual’s particular situation.  Only one Lifeline service may be distributed per household as either a wireless or a landline service. Some versions of these programs may offer free phones through the cellphone program as well.


The program is available to anyone in the United States, and even those in territories or on Tribal land. In order to qualify, you have to be at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Those that participate in one of a few different government programs may be eligible as well. These programs include Medicaid, Food Stamps, SSI, Section 8 housing, the Free Lunch Program, Tribal programs, Head Start, Energy Assistance, and various local state assistance programs.


In order to apply and get started with the program, eligible people should look for companies that participate in the program that are near to them.  There are various tools available online that will help you find examples of such companies. You can then contact them to apply to get into the program.

Before you apply, it’s a good idea to find out more about the programs in your area and the eligibility requirements. But overall, the Lifeline program will help save lives for people who may opt out of phone services because eating and shelter was more important. Obviously, food and housing is more important, but today a phone really isn’t an optional resource either.

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Ashley Williamson

Ashley Williamson, a freelance writer and a Game of Thrones enthusiast. View all posts by Ashley Williamson

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