Unlike the other free government phone programs, California’s LifeLine Telephone Program does not offer free phones, cell phones or free phone service. Instead, they offer deeply discounted home phone service with no credit check, no deposit and no contract.
Qualification Method One
The California LifeLine Telephone Program determines eligibility based on one of two methods. The first method is program based. In other words, if you participate in any one of the following government assistance programs, you are qualified for the LifeLine Telephone Program. The government programs are as follows:
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance or Section 8
- Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC)
- Healthy Families Category A
- National School Lunch’s FREE Lunch Program (NSL)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs)
- Stanislaus County Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (StanWORKs)
- Welfare-to-Work (WTW)
- Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN)
- Tribal TANF
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Head Start Income Eligible (Tribal Only)
The above was taken from the California LifeLine Program website April 7, 2011. Since eligibility criteria and programs are subject to change, make sure to check their website for updates.
Qualification Method Two
The other method for qualifying for the program is an income-based method. This means that your household size and income may not exceed the household size/income as indicated on their chart.
For example, a household with 1 to 2 members cannot exceed $24,000 a year in income. With three members it goes up to $28,200 per year and $34,000 for 4 members. After that, the income limit increases by $5,800 per additional household member. These numbers are in effect up until May 31, 2011. If you are reading this after 5/31/2011, you should check the website for the current household/income requirement.
What California LifeLine Telephone Program Offers
The California lifeline program has a rather complicated chart of the discounts. Well, it’s not really complicated it’s just that it’s sectioned out for the different types of charges. For example, If your phone company offers an unlimited local calling option, through the LifeLine program the flat rate for such a calling option ranges between $5.47 to $6.84 per month or half of what the local phone carrier charges whichever is less).
If you don’t have the unlimited calling option and are charged on a per call basis, through the California LifeLine program you will pay between $.91 to $3.66 for the first 60 calls or one half of the phone carrier’s rate (whichever is cheaper). There will be a charge for going over the 60 call allotment.
There are also discounts for installation and connection, but there are no charges for phone deposit. Take a look at their discount rate chart to get a better understanding of what they offer.
Applying for the California LifeLine Telephone Plan
Once you meet the eligibility requirements, the next step is to call your local telephone service company and let them know that you qualify for the LifeLine plan. Tell them whether you qualify under method one or method two. Then it’s up to your local phone company to start the application process.
Within three weeks after you initiate the process you should receive a pin number in a pink envelope. I guess they use a pink envelope so you won’t throw it away with the rest of the junk mail. After receiving the pin in the pink envelope you must complete the requested form (here’s a sample of what the form can look like), sign it and mail it along with the necessary income verification documents to the California LifeLine Administrator. Or, if you prefer, you can apply online.
You have to complete the form and return it within 45 days in order to receive the discount. Failure to complete the application and submit it within that period of time means you won’t receive the LifeLine discounts.
Once your application is processed you will receive either an approval or declination letter. If you are approved, you must renew the service annually.I’m not quite sure how long the process takes but if you’re concerned about your application and would like to know the status, use their online Contact Us form to find out.
This particular program may not be as attractive as some of the other LifeLine programs (such as Assurance Wireless or ReachOut Wireless), but it does help to soften the financial burden of paying for telephone service.