What is the Lifeline Discount Program and How Can You Apply?

Senior woman is using laptop at home, she is in the living room and her husband is in background.
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In trying to find ways to stretch your dollars further every month, you must find financial relief and take advantage of breaks where you can. The FCC introduced its Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) at the start of 2022 to help struggling households afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more. However, there is another program that has made services for both phone and internet more affordable for low-income consumers for years.

The Lifeline Program is run by the Federal Communications Commission and is part of a bigger program called the Universal Service Fund (USF), the system of subsidies, fees and funding designed to increase access to telecommunications for everyone living in the United States. The program was originally set up in 1985 to provide landline discounts and has gone through considerable tweaks throughout the years, particularly in 2016, when it was reformed to get modern with the times by including more broadband service and setting service standards to reduce program fraud and abuse.

The program provides up to a $9.25 monthly discount on service for eligible subscribers and up to $34.25 per month for those on Tribal lands ($111 and $411 savings a year respectively). You can apply to Lifeline online, by mail, or through the internet. The discount can be applied to either phone or internet service, but not both. If you currently receive a Lifeline benefit, you automatically qualify for the aforementioned ACP, and you can receive both benefits at the same time (restrictions apply).

There are two ways you can qualify for the Lifeline program: through your income level and through participation in certain federal assistance programs.

Federal Poverty Guidelines Income

The Lifeline program is available to people who make an income that is 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines in every state, territory, commonwealth and Tribal lands.

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Federal or Tribal Assistance Program Participation

You can also get Lifeline if you (or someone in your household) participates in one of these programs: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formally known as Food Stamps), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) and Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit.

If you live on Tribal lands, you or someone in your household can get Lifeline if are enrolled in any of the federal assistance programs mentioned above, Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Head Start (households meeting the income qualifying standard only), Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF) and Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations.

Qualification for Lifeline is done through FCC-appointed National Verifier. When applying, you will need your date of birth, the last four digits of your Social Security Number and home address at hand. You may also need to show proof of income (a tax return, three consecutive pays stubs). Go here for all Lifeline programs and how to apply info.

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