Qualified Florida residents have the option of participating in either the free government cell phone program or discounted landline phone program.
The Lifeline/Link-Up Programs make it possible for low-income individuals who need help paying their phone bills to receive either free or discounted service. Free cell phones are offered to Florida residents through SafeLink Wireless and Assurance Wireless. Along with the free cell phones, these companies offer free airtime minutes. The number of free airtime minutes varies depending on the plan selected.
Discounted Phone Service
Through the Lifeline program, residents can receive a discount of up to $13.50 off of their home phone service. In addition to the phone discounts, the Link-Up program helps to offset the cost of initial installation for setting up new home phone service. Link-Up also helps to offset the initial activation fees. The program pays up to 50% of these charges subject to a maximum of $30.
Qualifying for Lifeline
Since the Lifeline and Link-Up programs were designed to help low-income individuals, individuals or households participating in any of the following government programs qualify for Lifeline/Link-Up services:
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP )
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Cash Assistance
- Food Stamps
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8 )
- National School Lunch (NSL) Program’s free lunch program
- Households at or below 150% of the federal poverty guideline
- Households living on federally recognized tribal land participating in Bureau of Indian Affairs for Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, NSL or Head Start Subsidy also qualify for expanded Lifeline Assistance. Expanded Lifeline assistance offers an additional $25 off of the basic monthly phone bill while Link-Up pays up to $70 of the initial phone installation cost instead of $30.
Applying for Lifeline
To sign up for the free government cell phone program visit either the Assurance Wireless or SafeLink Wireless website to complete their online application. Please be advised, however, that if you do not have a permanent home address you may not apply for SafeLink or Assurance Wireless services. They do not ship cell phones to temporary residences or post office boxes.
To apply for the home phone line discount, you may either contact your current telephone service provider or visit the Florida Public Utilities Commission website. There they have application for the Lifeline program in English, Spanish and Creole.
Be forewarned that the application process may take several weeks. During that time please continue to pay your current phone bill in a timely fashion.