You may wonder why we use the word “creep” to describe the introduction of the government’s free cell phone program in California. You’ll understand why when we tell you that the state’s newest Lifeline Assistance program isn’t quite free and is available only in Bakersfield.
The newest competitor, a company called Telscape, is introducing the Lifeline Assistance program in the Central California community. Subscribers who qualify for the program will receive a free cell phone (just as in most other sates), but will be required to pay $2.50 per month for 300 minutes of talk or text time (most Lifeline programs in other states offer 250 minutes for free). So while the program requires customers to pay a little more, but also gives them a little more.
Telescape is focusing its efforts on low-income Hispanic consumers, and they will support the program with an ad campaign in Spanish. Nevertheless, the program is available to anyone who qualifies.
Ahhhh, but that brings up the question, “Do I qualify?” And the answer to that question is really very simple.
There are two ways to qualify. One, you can qualify if your household income falls below federally-established poverty guidelines. For example, a family of four will qualify if the household income falls below $34,000. The second way to qualify is if someone in your household participates in any one of several government assistance programs, such as Medicaid/Medi-Cal, Section 8 Federal housing, food stamps (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (NSL), or WIC. You can even qualify if your children participate in the national School Lunch Program.
Please note that there is one additional catch to Telscape’s program. The company charges a one-time service activation fee of $62. Don’t despair, though. If you qualify for Telscape’s free government cell phone program, that fee will be discounted to just $32.
Of course, as in all other states, only one Lifeline program cell phone is available per household.
We’re happy to see that Telescape is now competing with ReachOut Wireless by offering this inexpensive variation on the Lifeline program in California. However, we can help but wonder why no company has yet introduced the free cell phone program that’s available in most other states.
That’s what California’s needy resident’s really need.