ReachOut Wireless is the only one of the three wireless phone companies currently offering free government cell phones in the state of Kansas. Along with the free cell phone ReachOut provides free talk time.
The other two companies that offer free government cell phones are Assurance Wireless and SafeLink Wireless. As of this writing (September 2011), they are not approved to offer the service in Kansas. However, since they are branching out into new states all the time, it makes sense to check their websites to see if Kansas has since been added. Better yet, SafeLink Wireless has an e-mail service that will alert you when your state is approved.
The free government cell phone service is made possible by the Lifeline/Link-Up program. This program was created to help low-income individuals and families obtain home phone service that otherwise might have been financially difficult to pay for.
Discounted Home Phone Service
Through the Lifeline program, eligible individuals/households can sign up for discounted home phone service. This is different from the free government cell phones in that the discounted service applies to the phone services provided by your local phone company.
The average monthly discount is about $13.50 per month. The actual discount varies from phone company to phone company. You could either call your phone company or visit the Lifeline Support website to get more details on how much of a discount your phone company offers.
The Lifeline Support website which is co-administered by the Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides a listing of participating phone companies across the United States and the Lifeline discounts they offer. Once on the website, select the state of Kansas to see the listing of local phone companies and their discounts.
On their site you will find that the discounted offered by Cox Communications is $11.27 while the Gorham Telephone Company’s monthly discount is $18.56. Although the website has an extensive listing of phone companies servicing the Kansas area, it may not be a complete list. If your phone company isn’t listed, call your phone company to find out what kind of the lifeline discount they offer.
Link-Up Phone Services
Through the Link-Up portion of the program, eligible individuals can get help paying for a portion of the phone installation charges. This only applies to individuals who are installing new phone service under the Lifeline/Link-Up program. The Link-Up program will pay up to 50% of the installation charges (maximum of $30). Those families living on federally recognized tribal lands might qualify for the Enhanced Link-Up program which pays 50% of the installation costs up to a maximum of $100.
Lifeline Eligibility Requirements
To qualify for the Lifeline/Link-Up benefits you must receive benefits from at least one of the following government programs or have a household income that is either at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines:
- Food Stamps
- General Assistance
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance to Families
- United Tribes Food Distribution Program
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Tribally Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
- Head Start (households meeting its income qualifying standard)
- Free School Lunch Program
Applying for Free or Discounted Phone Services
To apply for the free government cell phones, visit the ReachOut Wireless website and complete their online application. Please note that you must have a valid street address. ReachOut Wireless will not ship a free cell phone to a P.O. Box.
To apply for the discounted phone service, call your phone company and request a Lifeline Application. It is recommended that you complete the application and return it as soon as possible because the processing takes several weeks. It could take up to three months before you see the discount on your phone bill.
Things to Note
You may only sign up for one Lifeline program at a time. This means you either apply for the free government cell phones or the home discounted service. You may not participate in both simultaneously.
There may be an annual re-certification process. This is done to make sure you still meet the eligibility criteria.