From texting and data plans to the cost of buying a smartphone, owning a cellular device can be expensive. However, phone costs no longer need to stop you from obtaining the device you need. 

If you’re struggling financially, the Lifeline might be able to help you afford a phone. Families who are eligible to enroll in this program can receive various benefits that make having a phone less costly. 

This program also makes it easier for households to afford their monthly cellphone bills. Whether you need help paying for a landline or your cellphone, these benefits are available to you. 

Lifeline is a flexible program, and it’s available to families throughout the country. The sections below explain how you can apply for this program, who qualifies for help and the types of benefits you can receive. 

Learn About Requirements

There is one major requirement you need to meet if you want to enroll in Lifeline. This relates to how much your household earns. 

In order to enroll in Lifeline, your household needs to have an income that is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). This guideline is established each year, so make sure you’re looking at the requirements for the year you’re applying for Lifeline. 

If you aren’t sure if you’re eligible to enroll based on your income, you might be able to enroll based on whether you receive benefits from another federal program. If you’re enrolled in any of the following program, you’ll qualify for Lifeline: 

If you participate in one of the following Tribal assistance programs, you can also qualify for Lifeline: 

  • Head start (as long as you meet the income eligibility requirements)
  • Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families 
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance 

How to Apply

The process to apply for a Lifeline program is simple. In order to be considered for this program, you first need to find a Lifeline provider in your state. 

There are many different companies that participate in Lifeline. To help you find providers in the state you live in, go to the Lifeline support website and search for businesses. You can also call the Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC) and ask about Lifeline providers near you. 

Once you find a provider, you need to apply for benefits. To do this, you must prove how much income you earn. 

If you’re qualifying based on your income alone, you need to provide a document that proves you meet the FPL requirement. This means you must submit a copy of your most recent tax return or pay stubs to verify your income. 

If you qualify for Lifeline based on your enrollment in another program, you must submit either a copy of your award letter or your enrollment card. 

Regardless of the company you are applying through, you’ll need to include the following information in your application: 

  • Your full legal name 
  • Your birthdate 
  • Your address
  • The last four digits of your Social Security Number (SSN) or your Tribal identification number 

You’ll also need to submit a document that proves your identity. Examples of documents you can use include your: 

  • Driver’s license
  • Social Security card 
  • Birth certificate 
  • Passport 
  • Naturalization or citizenship certifications 

Find Out About Providers

Throughout the United States, there are many different Lifeline providers. The following companies offer Lifeline benefits in certain parts of the country: 

Can everyone in my household get a phone?

If you enroll in Lifeline, you can’t use this program to help everyone in your household get a phone. Only one person per household is eligible to receive Lifeline benefits. 

Households who break this rule and have multiple enrollees might be subject to criminal or civil penalties. For the purpose of this program, “household” refers to all adults who contribute to the financial income and expenses of that household. 

Types of Phones You Can Get

Lifeline can also make it possible for you to obtain a free or low-cost cellphone. Different providers make this option available to recipients. 

In some instances, you might not be able to choose the make or model of the phone you receive. That’s because you can only receive a phone that is available at a certain time. The phones that are available are based on the Lifeline provider’s inventory.