Overview of the Lifeline Assistance Program

The Lifeline Assistance Program is a U.S. government run benefit program that’s a cruicial part of the Universal Service Fund, whose main goal is to ensure quality, affordable telecommunications for our citizens.   The lifeline program allows carriers like Assurance Wireless to provide eligible low-income customers free, or heavily discounted cell phones and airtime for their essential phone needs.

The program helps ensure that low-income consumers have reasonable access to  obtain employment, retain family contact, and make emergency calls.   This is Federal program, and as such, it’s available in all 50 states, as well as U.S. owned territories like Puerto Rico.

Provided a potential customer has sufficient proof of  eligibility, they can enroll in this program.  In general terms, the family income would be no more than 30% over the current U.S. Poverty Guideline level in order to qualify.   If you already qualify for one of the following government assistance programs, chances are that you are also qualified for the Lifeline Assistance Program:

  • SNAP (Food Stamps)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public House Assistance (e.g, Section 8 Housing Qualified)
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF);
  • Medicaid
  • National Leve School Free Lunch Programs;
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Tribally-Administrered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF)
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)

The average benefit received under the Lifeline program is a little over $9 per month.


The program rules prohibit consumers from taking part in more than ONE Lifeline service per household, that is, only one person per household may be currently claiming the benefit.  Additionally,the household can opt for either a wired home benefit, or a wireless cellular benefit, but cannot receive both.


If you feel you are eligible, you may contact a provider of these services directly.   They will collect any information needed to verify your eligibility.   There’s no requirement to apply with the government.  However, you should be aware that your State may offer additional benefits that you may be entitled to.   For example, some States will offset installation costs for home phones, but the benefit is separate from the Lifeline program, and the application process varies from state to state.