Staying connected in this day and age is extremely important, whether it’s for work or being in touch with your loved ones, but as crucial as it may be, connectivity comes at a price, one that some can’t exactly afford.
Thankfully, the federal government is well aware of the financial situation some of these households may be in and has created programs to help pay for their wireless or wired connection expenses.
With Lifeline, these households can gain access to a $9.25 discount on their bills every month, and this discount is even greater if they meet certain criteria, meaning that everyone can now have access to the network at an affordable price.
This subsidy can be used for a number of different things, from landline connections to a home internet plan, sometimes even for bundles if the provider in question offers them, so long as only one member of the household is part of the program.
Of course, much like every other program, the federal government has to offer, Lifeline comes with a number of requirements you’ll have to meet if you wish to receive benefits.
The main one is having your household’s median income at or below 135% of the federal poverty line, although some other programs may also qualify you for benefits.
A good example would be the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, whose beneficiaries may automatically qualify for Lifeline benefits, and this applies to a number of other programs, including Medicaid and SSI benefits.
You may be required to present proof of participation in these programs in order to receive assistance through Lifeline, usually in the form of a benefits letter you’ve received from the program in question or an official document proving you’re part of the program.
The application process
Lifeline doesn’t discriminate against any American, and assistance through the program is available to anyone who meets the aforementioned eligibility requirements and those set by the state government of the state you’re applying in.
Even though the program is technically limited to one beneficiary per household, several households residing at the same address can gain access to assistance, so long as at least one member qualifies for benefits.
This also applies to members of nursing homes and those currently residing in homeless shelters, meaning that the program is also available to applicants with a temporary address.
Application for Lifeline can be done one of three ways, those being either online, with a mail-in application letter, or over the phone. All online applications, except those from California, Oregon, and Texas are done with the Lifeline National Verifier website, whereas applicants from the previously mentioned three states will need to use their state’s application process.
Which providers are part of the program?
Even though you may just be hearing of this program, hundreds of cellular and internet providers across the country are part of Lifeline, and this includes several major carriers like Xfinity and Verizon, as well as some smaller ones that are exclusive to a single state.
If you wish to find providers in your area, you can use the USAC website to research the options that are available to you, although the results you’ll find may not be comprehensive, due to some companies not popping up on the search list even if they’re part of the program.
If you’ve got an interest in a specific provider, you’re best off contacting them directly to find out more about their involvement in the program, if any, and what you can do to get assistance with your connection expenses.
Other options for low-income Americans
For those that don’t qualify for Lifeline benefits, it’s not all over, and the government offers a wide variety of assistance options for low-income Americans that need help paying for their internet bills.
The first thing that comes to mind is the Affordable Connectivity Program, which ensures that every qualifying household in the US has access to broadband services.
With the help of ACP, qualifying beneficiaries can get a discount of up to $30 on their internet service bills, whereas those located on tribal land can get up to a $75 discount.
On top of all of this, the eligibility requirements are the same as those for Lifeline, making ACP a valid option for any low-income household in the US.
Some nonprofits in the US also contribute to providing affordable internet access to needy American households, either by giving away the necessary equipment or covering a portion of their monthly expenses.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance is the best place to begin your search, as you’ll find dozens of different organizations working together to solve this growing issue in the nation.
You’ll find the most recent information on these assistance options on their Free & Low-Cost webpage, which can give you a rundown of all the discount plans in your area.