Free Cell Phones for Low Income

Staying connected today is more important than at any time in history, with the digital and telecommunication age requiring you to be connected in order to access healthcare, friends and family, able to find employment and in emergency situations. The federal Lifeline program is funded by the government and supported and administered by individual states and telecommunication providers.

What is the Lifeline Program?
The program has in fact been in service since 1985 but has gone through a major overhaul in 2014 to make it more serviceable in a modern age. It was only applicable at one time to land line usage in the US but now those who qualify can get access to free cell phones through the service. With wired or wireless services receiving a federal subsidy of $9.25 per month per economic unit. Yet most carriers of the service often provide the cell phone and a service within this discount amount providing you with a much needed telephone for free.

An economic unit is defined as all adult contributors to a single household at one address. However, economic units or families living at one address that is a multi-unit complex can qualify for a cell phone per family. The subsidy is meant only for individuals that qualify as low income.

If you live on a federally recognized Indian Tribe reserve, pueblo, colony, Indian allotment, a former Indian reserve within certain states, or reservation you may also qualify for expanded benefits.

Qualifications for the Free Cell Phone
For every state, commonwealth, territory or tribal lands in the US the program is available for those that are eligible. Most states provide the program if you are at or below 135% of the federal poverty line, yet some states have made the program only eligible at 150% of that poverty guideline. Review percentage guidelines here

However if you participate in any of the following federally funded programs you will also qualify for the Lifeline:

  • Medicaid
  • SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps
  • LIHEAP, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
  • TANF, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
  • Head Start
  • FDPIR, Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations
  • National School Lunch Free Lunch Program
  • Federal Public Housing, Section 8
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Some State assistance programs, if eligible.

If you are currently enrolled or receiving benefits from any of these programs than you automatically qualify for the Lifeline program and will receive the program’s discount for a free cellphone.

This service is for only one phone, either wired or wireless per household. You must recertify for eligibility annually as requested by your service provider. You can see if you are eligible with the Lifeline’s pre-screening tool located here.

If you are pre-screened as eligible, then you will need to find a service provider in your region, which can be found here.

Many companies that support the Lifeline program offer a varying amount of talk minutes or texts for those that opt for wireless services. Be sure to compare the carriers in your area to get the best deal.

Please share any other programs or services that you know of that provide free cell phones for those on a low income or collecting welfare benefits.