Having access to phone and internet service is important for countless reasons. Not only does phone service help you get a job, access health care and connect with friends and family, it is also essential in an emergency. Obtaining a free government cell phone is probably something you have heard of if you have ever looked into getting help with your phone bills. In order to receive a phone at no cost, you usually need to be eligible to enroll in a program known as Lifeline.
Lifeline is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that is overseen by the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC). Through Lifeline, you can receive a free government phone from certain service providers who have partnered with the USAC. With this in mind, it is important to understand that not all service providers offer free devices such as cell phones and smartphones. Learn more about Lifeline and get all the information you need on free government phones in the sections below.
Do I qualify for a free government phone?
To get a free government phone through Lifeline, you will need to qualify for this program based on your income or other criteria. Free government phones are not available for those who are unable to meet the USAC’s program requirements.
While many websites claim to offer a free government cell phone to anyone, it is important that you do your research before signing up for a plan that may not actually provide everything it promises. Only certain providers, such as SafeLink wireless and other organizations, have partnered with the USAC to provide free devices.
Official free government cell phones for low-income households are offered through Lifeline. To qualify for assistance under this program, individuals or families must have an income that is 135 percent of or below the federal poverty level (FPL). Keep in mind that income limits vary based on an applicant’s household size.
To sign up with a provider that offers free government cell phone service, you will need to provide proof of income by showing at least three consecutive pay stubs or last year’s tax return. If you do not have a job, keep in mind that you may show your income from Social Security benefits or other federal support programs instead.
In addition to qualifying based on your income alone, you may automatically be eligible for free government touch screen cell phones or other devices if you receive benefits through public assistance programs. You can be eligible to receive Lifeline benefits if you are already enrolled in:
- Food stamps, which is officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- Public housing assistance.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
- A veteran’s pension or survivor benefits.
- Certain tribal programs.
To verify that you are eligible for a free government phone based on your participation in these programs, you must show proof that you are a current beneficiary.
Where to Get a Free Government Cell Phone
If you would like to receive a free government phone, it is important to be aware that only certain service providers have partnered with Lifeline. Therefore, a free government cell phone cannot be obtained from just any cable, phone or internet company. It is important to take your time researching companies before signing up for a service that promises to offer free phones that it may not actually provide.
If you wonder, “Where can I get free government phones near me?” the best place to start is with the USAC. By entering simple information such as your ZIP code, city or state on the USAC website, you can access a list of service providers that offer the assistance you are looking for.
When looking for the best free government cell phone, some service providers are naturally more well-known than others. For example, SafeLink wireless is one of the most recognizable names in the industry when it comes to Lifeline providers. You may also find that smaller service providers work with large national networks, such as Verizon. With that in mind, certain providers may allow you to obtain a Verizon wireless free government phone that works on the Verizon network.
As with any type of service, be aware that free government phone locations and availability will vary based on where you live. For example, rural areas may have fewer service providers than in large metropolitan areas.
In areas with a higher population, you may be able to find service providers with a physical location that you can visit in order to sign up for services or choose a phone. When asking “Where can I find free government phone stands near me?” start by looking at the service providers in your area that have partnered with the USAC.
If you cannot get free touch screen government phones, keep in mind that other service providers may have promotional deals that allow you to get a new phone for free or at a greatly discounted price. Obtaining a discounted cell phone from a company that has partnered with Lifeline may allow you to use the other benefits provided under this program. For example, you can receive a discount on your phone and internet bills each month if you can enroll in Lifeline.
Does Lifeline provide more than free government phones?
Qualifying for a program that offers free government phones is a great way to save money in an important area of your life. However, Lifeline does more than provide phones and other devices. Even if you do not receive a free government cell phone, you can enjoy the other benefits of Lifeline if you qualify for assistance.
Lifeline’s main purpose is to help households afford their phone and internet bills by providing a monthly discount. As of December 2018, a household can receive $9.25 to help afford their phone bill and $9.25 to help pay for broadband internet. For families that live on tribal land, there is an additional $25 discount per household per month.
To get a free government cell phone or sign up for any services through Lifeline, you will need to follow a few steps. Signing up for Lifeline requires that you:
- Gather documentation that verifies your income and eligibility for Lifeline.
- Find a company that has partnered with the USAC.
- Ask the service provider for an application and fill in the necessary information.
- Submit your application to the service provider.
If approved, you will get a Lifeline discount in addition to a free government phone if you signed up through an approved provider that offers this benefit.
- SNAP Prescreening Eligibility
- State WIC Contacts
- National School Lunch Program
- Child Nutrition Programs
- Health Insurance Marketplace
- National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Affordable Childcare & After school programs
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
- Low Income Housing
- Find Local Food Pantry
How to Maintain Lifeline Benefits
In order to continue to receive benefits for Lifeline, you must periodically reaffirm your eligibility for the program. Qualifications that you must meet include:
- One discounted service per household.
- Renewal requirements as necessary.
To remain eligible for Lifeline, you must continue to meet income-based requirements. At each renewal period, you will need to provide documentation that provides proof of income or proof of enrollment in a qualifying federal or state program. If you are unable to provide documentation to support your renewal application or if you do not reaffirm your eligibility, you will no longer receive Lifeline discounts and benefits.
In addition to the income and renewal based eligibility requirements, it is essential that you ensure that your household is only receiving one discounted service. Lifeline offers monthly discounts on the cost of a cellular phone or broadband internet service. You are not permitted to receive discounts for both of these services.
Furthermore, everyone living within your home is considered to be of the same household in most cases. Therefore, if you are receiving a discount on your cell phone plan, no one else within your household may receive a discount from Lifeline. If your household is found to be in violation of this rule, your discount will be revoked immediately and you could potentially face civil penalties.