Minnesota is included on the short list of states that do not participate in the free government cell phone programs as offered through Assurance Wireless, SafeLink Wireless and ReachOut Wireless. I’m not sure if they will in the future, but as of this writing (September 2011), the free cell phone service isn’t available.
Instead of the free government cell phones, Minnesota residents can participate in one of the discounted phone service programs.
Minnesota Telephone Assistance Plan
The state has a program called the Telephone Assistance Plan (TAP). It is co-administered by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Through the TAP program, qualified residents can save up to $2.50 per month on their monthly phone bill.
Federal Lifeline/Link-Up Program
In addition to the state-sponsored programs, Minnesota residents who qualify may participate in the Federal Lifeline/Link-Up programs. Through the Lifeline program, eligible residents can save around $10 a month on their home phone bill. The actual savings varies from company to company. Visit the Lifeline Support website to find out how much of a discount each phone company offers.
In addition to the monthly phone savings, qualified residents seeking new phone service can offset part of the installation cost through the Link-Up program. Link-Up will pay up to 50% of the phone installation charge up to a maximum of $30. Residents who live on federally recognized tribal land might qualify for an additional $70 in installation reimbursement.
Eligibility Requirements for Discounted Phone Service
To qualify for the discounted phone service in Minnesota your income level must be at or below 135% of federal poverty guidelines or participate in one of the following assistance programs:
- Food support (Food Stamps)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Medicaid (Medical Assistance)
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
- Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP)
- National School Lunch Free Lunch Program (NSL)
- Bureau of Indian Affairs Program (Tribal TANF, Head Start Subsidy, NSL)
How to Apply
Visit the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission website and complete the information required.
Send the application along with the necessary proof of income documents to your local phone company. Please be patient after submitting the application because the approval process takes several weeks. Once your application is approved the discount will show up on your monthly phone bill.
Once approved, you may be subject to an annual re-certification check to ensure your income continues to meet the eligibility criteria.