Unlike just a few years ago, when owning a cell phone was considered a luxury, having a cell phone today is considered a basic necessity for many people. From parents to employees to job seekers, cell phones have become a necessary part of daily life. As necessary as they may be, however, not everyone can afford the expense of a cell phone, and the cost of owning a cell phone is often significantly higher than that of a traditional landline telephone. Fortunately, there is help available to those who can't afford a cell phone, but need one for day-to-day survival. A government-sponsored program called LifeLine Assistance offers free and low-cost cell phones and a limited number of minutes per month to those who qualify. When getting a government phone, make sure to ask the following questions.
Do I qualify for a free or low-cost government phone?
In order to receive a free or low-cost government phone and plan, you must meet certain income criteria. This criteria may vary slightly by state, but the general requirements are set by the government. When looking into getting a government phone, ask whether or not you qualify for free or low-cost phone options.
What kind of phone can I get?
Contrary to popular belief, many phone providers that participate in the LifeLine program offer newer, top-of-the-line phones, rather than cheap or outdated phones. Talk to your phone provider to find out what types of phones qualify for the LifeLine program.
What documentation do I need to qualify for LifeLine Assistance?
There are certain requirements you must meet in order to qualify for LifeLine Assistance, and documentation may be required to prove you meet the criteria. Documentation may include copies of your paystubs or bank statements or proof of government assistance. Your photo ID will also be required. Make sure you have all documents needed when you go to sign up for phone service, in order to avoid any delays or denial of service.
Are there any restrictions, and if so, what are they?
The LifeLine Assistance program does have certain restrictions, such as only allowing one government phone line per household. When signing up for your phone and plan, ask about any other restrictions you should be aware of.
Can I upgrade my phone or plan for an extra fee?
In some cases, you may be able to opt for a slightly better phone or purchase more minutes per month for an extra fee. Talk to your phone provider to find out what your options are when selecting a government phone and plan.
Will I be required to sign a contract?
Most phone providers participating in the LifeLine program do not require subscribers to sign a contract, but there are a few that may require a contract to start service. Always ask before signing up for a plan whether you'll be required sign a contract, and if so, what the contract entails.
What if I don't qualify for a government phone?
If you don't meet income or eligibility requirements for a government phone program, ask your phone provider what other options are available to you. Most phone providers offer prepaid and low-cost phone plans that work with most budgets, and buying a refurbished or older-model phone can be significantly less expensive than buying brand new. Work with your phone provider to find a solution that works for you and your budget.