Cell phones are an essential part of daily life for most of us. We are used to staying in touch with family and co-workers and accessing emergency services at the touch of a button. The high cost of cell phones and cell services often makes them out of reach for low-income families.
A government program called Lifeline Assistance provides free government cell phones and free services to qualifying families through partnerships with several major wireless companies.
Close to 40 states currently offer free government cell phones; the program is expanding rapidly. You can still qualify for a free landline if you live in a state that does not currently offer free cell phones.
Who Qualifies For Free Government Cell Phones
As a general rule, families currently receiving government assistance, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), might be eligible for this program. In addition, you may qualify if your family income is below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines.
To determine if you are eligible for free government cell phones, you first need to determine if your state has a wireless service provider that participates in Lifeline Assistance. Three large national carriers serve nearly 36 states, and several regional companies offer Lifeline Assistance in one or more states.
You will not be charged connection fees, will not have to sign an annual contract, will not have to make a deposit, and will not have to pay monthly fees for free cell phones. You must comply with the annual certification requirement.
Companies That Provide Free Government Cell Phones
Following is a list of the three major companies that partner with Lifeline to offer free government cell phones, free monthly minutes, and landline discounts.
America's oldest and largest free government mobile phone carrier, Safelink Wireless, offers cell service to over 4 million customers across 31 states and Puerto Rico. Eligible applicants can receive a free cell phone, 350 free local and domestic long-distance minutes (for the first three months, 500 free minutes are included), and unlimited text messages monthly.
The free mobile phones are currently available in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Assurance Wireless is the nation's second-largest provider of free cellular service. Virgin Mobile oversees the company. Assurance includes a free cell phone (usually an Android, depending on availability), 500 minutes per month, and unlimited texting.
Assurance Wireless' signup process is fairly simple. Medicaid or SNAP recipients who can provide proof of their eligibility will be approved quickly. Your state's poverty level guidelines determine whether you qualify for assistance if you are not on these programs.
Assurance is currently present in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Providing free government cell phones to Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, Reachout Wireless is the third largest free government cell phone carrier.
Assurance Wireless and Safelink offer comparable cell phone plans to Reachout Wireless. Besides a free cell phone, Reachout also offers 125 free minutes per month that roll over or 250 minutes per month that do not rollover. Besides three-way calling, call forwarding, caller ID, call waiting, international long distance (additional charges), select text messaging, and voicemail, Reachout users enjoy the following features.
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