Ohio is one of the states that allow Assurance Wireless and SafeLink Wireless to offer free government cell phones to its residents. If you qualify, you can sign up for service and have a cell phone shipped to your home address. Along with the cell phone comes free airtime. The amount of airtime varies depending on the plan selected.
Alternative to Free Government Cell Phones
If you opt not to receive a free government cell phone you can (if you qualify), reduce the cost of your basic monthly phone service. Both the free government cell phones and the discounted phone service are made possible through the Lifeline/Link-Up program. The purpose of the program is to help low-income individuals afford home phone service.
The alternative to free cell phones is discounted phone service. The discounts vary from phone company to phone company, but you can go to LifelineSupport.org to see how much of a discount your phone company offers. For example, according to Lifeline Support, McClure Telephone Company charges $8.70 for basic monthly service while Conneaut Telephone Company offers a $7.00 monthly savings compared to CenturyLink’s savings of up to $16.65 off of your basic monthly phone bill.
Lifeline Support is a collaboration of the Federal Communications Commission and the Universal Service Administrative Company (they co-administer of the program). If your phone company isn’t listed on the Lifeline Support website, it doesn’t mean that your company is not a Lifeline participant. Call your phone company and ask them if they participate and how much of a Lifeline discount they offer.
Qualifying for Free or Discounted Services in Ohio
As mentioned earlier, the Lifeline/Link Up program services low-income individuals. Therefore, to qualify your household must be at or below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines or participate in any of the following government assistance programs:
- Federal Public Housing Assistance / Section 8
- General Assistance (including Disability Assistance)
- Home Energy Assistance Programs (HEAP, E-HEAP )
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Any State Program which might supplant (supersedes) Medicaid
- National School Lunch (free program only)
- Ohio Works First
- Ohio Energy Credit Program (OECP)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Supplemental Security Income – Blind and Disabled (SSDI)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Applying for Government Phone Services
Free Government Cell Phones: If you meet the eligibility requirements, visit either the Assurance Wireless or SafeLink Wireless website and complete their online application.
Discounted Phone Service: Contact your local phone company and request an application. Complete and return the application as soon as possible because processing may take several weeks.
NOTE: You can only participate in either the free government cell phone program or receive discounted phone service. You may not participate in both plans.