When the public hears the term “Obama phone,” it may be tempted to believe some of the popular misconceptions that surround this benefits program.
This initiative, which is technically called the Lifeline program, began in 1985 with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). With a Lifeline phone, enrollees are permitted to obtain cell phones at monthly discounted rates.
There are various models that beneficiaries can choose from, although they must be sure to make their selections from approved stores. Furthermore, this program’s goal is to help ensure that low-earning families and individuals have unrestricted access to communication at all times.
Although the Lifeline cell phone program is not new, there is much uncertainty surrounding who can qualify for these benefits and how much claimants are eligible to receive.
These conflicting explanations can confuse petitioners and even stop potential applicants from enrolling in the Lifeline phone service that they qualify for. In any case, these plans are useful to applicants who need help affording cell phones on a regular basis.
In order to take advantage of these benefits, prospective claimants need to be sure that they understand the program’s rules and procedures to see if they could qualify for this assistance.
Is the Obama phone really free?
Some people may believe that they can receive a free Obama phone when they apply for the Lifeline program. However, this is generally not true and can be misleading to applicants and enrollees who are unsure about the benefits they may be entitled to receive.
When claimants enroll in the Lifeline phone program, they may be required to pay small fees for these products. Therefore, it may appear that there are free government cell phones for low income individuals because they can receive wireless devices through this program. However, this is not entirely true due to the fact that enrollees are required to pay fees to maintain their services each month.
Therefore, candidates should be sure to keep this in mind when they apply for and enroll in this program because they may be required to pay for services.
Learn About Lifeline Phone Requirements
When claimants wonder how to get an Obama phone, they need to remember that there are certain requirements they need to meet before they can receive benefits. Since this program is available exclusively to low-income applicants, candidates need to be sure that their households earn within a certain amount of income each month.
Specifically, individuals who would like to enroll in this low income cell phone plan need to be sure that they earn at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty limit (FPL). Since this is a national limit, this income requirement applies to petitioners across the country.
Additionally, applicants may be able to qualify for a Lifeline phone if they are already enrolled in other public benefits initiatives. Specifically, claimants may be able to collect discounted cell phones if they are already enrolled in one of the following:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Public housing programs
How to Apply for Obama Phone Coverage
When candidates decide to apply for Obama phone benefits, they should keep in mind there is specific documentation they must submit to their state offices. Often, these program officials represent the Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC).
In addition to submitting the Obama phone application, claimants must be sure to provide state officials with proof of income. Examples of the following documents would satisfy this requirement:
- Tax information: Last year’s state, tribal or federal tax return documents.
- Income verification: Letters from the applicant’s current employer or the candidate’s three most recent pay stubs.
- Benefits packages: Proof of claimant’s Social Security (SS), Veterans Affairs (VA) or unemployment benefits packages.
Once claimants are accepted into the Lifeline cell phone program, they will see these funding discounts reflected in their bills. However, enrollees are responsible for notifying program representatives if their incomes change in ways that make them unable to continue collecting program benefits. In fact, many providers require enrollees to alert their representatives within 30 days of becoming ineligible of receiving benefits.
Additionally, recipients should note that only one plan is available per household. This means that program enrollees are not eligible to join the Obama phone program and also receive landline telephones from a similar program.
How to Replace a Lifeline Phone
When enrollees lose, break or have their Obama phone stolen, agencies must take various factors into account when they determine how the enrollee can be reimbursed. In some instances, claimants who have their phones damaged while they are under warranty may be able to receive replacement phones at no cost to them.
Alternatively, candidates who experience a breakage in their Lifeline phone when these items are not under warranty could be required to pay replacement fees for these devices.
If claimants lose their Lifeline cell phone, they may also be able to regain these devices. Depending on the product provider, individuals may be able to receive these products for fees or for free.
In any case, enrollees in the Lifeline phone service program need to be careful that they do not lose or have too many of these devices stolen in a certain period of time. If candidates request replacement phones too frequently, it could signal to providers that enrollees are participating in fraudulent activities with these devices.
How to Renew a Lifeline Phone Plan
The process to renew an enrollee’s Obama phone eligibility is straightforward. Each year, beneficiaries are responsible for verifying that they still qualify to receive support through this program.
Similar to when candidates first applied for these cell phones, renewal applicants should be prepared to demonstrate to the USAC that they meet the income requirements to qualify. Likewise, enrollees need to be ready to provide documented proof of income to Lifeline phone program officials once each year.
Candidates who fail to complete this recertification process in a timely manner may risk losing their discounts. Then, these individuals are responsible for paying the full prices of their phones and the associated plans.