Lifeline Cell Phone Service Comes to California

The federal Lifeline phone service program, which began providing free cell phones and service to financially disadvantaged Americans in mid-2008, has grown rapidly and now covers 36 states,the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The 36th state was just recently added, and that state is California.

The Golden State, in which 10% of the U.S. population lives, has been conspicuously absent from the list of participating states. But now it’s serviced by fast-growing Lifeline cell phone company ReachOut Wireless, a company of Nexus Communications.

There is one caveat. You won’t really get the monthly phone service at no cost — the basic plan will cost you a modest $2.50 a month. But, we’re putting it on our list anyway as it’s a hefty discount from the non-Lifeline plan charge of $16 a month. and it is certified by the Lifeline assistance program.

How do you qualify?

You can see the exact eligibility rules on our California Lifeline Cell Phones page. You can either qualify under a program-based method or a income-based method. Here are some general guidelines.

You automatically qualify under the program-based method qualifies if you or someone else in your household is already enrolled in any of a number of public assistance programs. They include, but are not limited to, Medicaid, Medi-Cal, food stamps, housing assistance, National School Lunch Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, various tribal programs, and others.

Under the income-based method you qualify if your Household Income is below certain annual limits. For example, for households with 1-2 family members, you must earn $24,000 or less a year.

If the whooping 3.2 million Californians who are getting food stamps is any indicator of the poverty in the state, it looks like ReachOut Wireless is going to be very busy in the state.

What do you get with a California ReachOut Wireless plan?

Just like the plans in the other states, you will receive a modern, but basic phone — not an iPhone, Blackberry or Android — with the usual features such as voicemail, call waiting, and caller id.

The basic plan will give you 250 minutes of airtime for $2.50 a month. This is the same plan that you get for no cost in other states; California is the only state in which a Lifeline cell phone provider charges for its basic 250 minute or less plan.

If you would like 500 minutes, you can pay $5 a month, and if you want 1,000 minutes you can pay $20. These are all $13.50 per month less than the non-Lifeline plans.

For contact information, go to our ReachOut Wireless page.

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Comments

  1. jimh2o says

    Zyla Oru,
    If you contact the post office where you’re po box is they will give you their address with your box # that gives you a street address that should be acceptable to the wireless service.

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  3. Mandy D says

    Well I’ve had mine from reachout for over a year now. They acutally advertise 250 minutes and free 250 texts for $2.50 a month and so on. It started out good for a couple months then every month I had to contact them because I wasn’t receiving my 250 texts and or all my minutes. They’d say it shows you got it all but I didn’t. They’d have to fix it. Every month now I have to call them to give me my time after I’ve paid my payment. Sometimes they like to say that they don’t have a plan that gives you 250 free texts but yet I have the brochures they sent me saying this. Other operators know exactly what I’m talking about and say ok give it 24 to 48 hours and all will be loaded. Of course it isn’t loaded and I have to contact them again. This month I paid for 500 minutes and I only got 250 with no text. It took me 2 weeks for them to finally add my remaining 250 minutes without my texts again. So now I was told within the day I will get my texts added. (today was the 5th time I was on with live chat customer service) It’s cheap, but there is a reason.

  4. Zyla Oru says

    Hello, I am a resident of West Marin County, California U.S.A. I became a ReachOut Wireless customer when I lived at a residence that had mail delivery. My phone no longer holds a charge and needs to be replaced, however Where I have moved to (Dillon Beach) there is only mail delivery to my P.O. Box. My mother would also be eligible for a lifeline subsidized cell phone, however she lives in Inverness which is also West Marin and the mail service is to her P.O. Box at the Inverness Post Office.

    My question is how can we serve and facilitate telephone communication in these rural areas if the company insists on a “serviceable address” that they can “confirm” on their search engine? Why can’t we entrust citizens in need of assistance to utilize one cell phone per physical address and have it be sent to a local, trusted United States Post Office. If they want a physical address they can use that of the post office with the four digits after the zip being one’s P.O. Box number.

  5. elva says

    there is an application online that you fill out. Thats what i did and they send me a free phone with activation instructions. You get a letter first giving you the number and then the phone. The phone is just a simple phone, but you can go to the website they provide you in the package and you can buy a better one.

  6. Claude Sweet says

    I joined in Jan, 2012. From the start I never received a proper working phone. I returned 1 phone and received a different phone. It did not work properly as well. I purchased another phone for $49.00, it proved to be faulty as well. I returned it after they tried to tell me I couldn’t get my money back, only have it repaired. Except it was the third phone that didn’t work properly so I didn’t think I should have to pay anything since they never once sent me a properly working phone to begin with. After going around and around with them, they promised if I would send the last phone back they would send me a perfectly working phone in three weeks. It’s been over a month and I haven’t heard from them. When I try calling the number they gave me or any other number connected to Reach Out Wireless, I can’t get pass the first few steps before I get cut off. Plus they kept $8.00 of my $49.00 for the purchased phone when I sent it back, saying it was restocking fees. Why restock the phone that wasn’t working properly to begin with. They promised I would receive a good working phone in three weeks. I haven’t heard a peep from them in over a month. I need help to get this problem corrected, and get the phone I was promised.

  7. Joe L says

    Hello,
    I have some questions about my Reachoutmobile (CA Lifeline) phone service.
    1. Why do I get a “Not Enough Money On Your Account” message when I try to make a call from my Reachout phone? I was supposed to get 250 min./month, and I haven’t used anywhere near that amount.
    2. How and where am I supposed to pay the $2.50/month? Will they bill me? I was never instructed how to pay my bill.
    3. When I called my Reachout number from another phone, the Reachout phone didn’t ring. Instead, it automatically diverted to the voice-message system. How do I get my phone to accept incoming calls?
    4. How can I reach a live person when I call the phone number listed on the Reachoutmobile website?
    5. Do long-distance calls inside the U.S. cost extra?
    Thanks very much for your help!

    • betty bisett says

      my phone says i cannot make a call to any nunber why.. and where do i call to talk to someone???????????? about this do i need to pay more moneyi never have got a bill in 8 months

    • Cheeky aka dmk says

      Reach Out is owned by Nexus Communications, Inc. Check them out at the Better Business Bureau. I’m posting the link below, but not sure if it will show in the thread.
      http://www.bbb.org/centralohio/business-reviews/telephone-companies/nexus-communications-inc-in-columbus-oh-20003197

      Anyway, the complaints against this company are astounding. I see repeatedly Nexus will say they are trying to reach someone when the question that always puzzles me is, how can they reach someone when their phone doesn’t work?
      The BBB can be helpful but I’ve found through experience and years of observation, it tends to lean strongly in the direction of the business. Example, if Nexus tried to contact someone and can’t because their equipment fails to work and that consumer never responds, BBB assumes the complaint was resolved and closes the case, never to be opened again. It’s final. I know.
      In all communications with the BBB, one must be precise, and diligent in your follow through.

  8. David says

    This works just fine. Always a glitch in upstart of service but they work with you and gladly send replacements for defective phones. BE PATIENT. The operators are Indian but they get the job done. Had my phone going on two years and its well worth the initial hassle. Do what they tell you. East coast is SAFELINK West coast is REACHOUT WIRELESS. Not a hoax a legitimate offer. Go online and fill out the app if the number doesn’t work or get the number online at their site. If you don’t need the phone don’t get it-if they can’t give you the same number so what-ITS A BASICALLY FREE SERVICE-all they ask us a one time payment of 3-whatever dollar amount you want to add within the first month. Hope this helps.

  9. Trudie Brazil says

    Oh yes, me again. I don’t want a free cell phone or number. Why can’t I just get my same ol’ service changed to reachout. Also I can’t get anyone who understands English. Or it seems that way. I believe I saw a commercial last year that was on a bank card issue. Seems to work the same way

  10. Trudie Brazil says

    Signed up. Received a conformation # and phone number. Was sent phone, of which did not work properly. All I really want is to have my current phone and number, which I have had for 5 years to be ported to reachout. Have all the info but don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Can someone help????????????

      • Philip Inuhoff says

        HAHAHA! You are so funny.

        I’m sure the reason she is asking is because the website application is broken, chat doesn’t work and no one answers the phone or email. I doubt if your scam will even send the bagel.

  11. Remy says

    I signed up for this phone service in early December. I sent a request in via e-mail and in a few days I received a pink letter in which I filled out the appropriate fields. After maybe two weeks I got a second pink letter telling me that I qualified for the Lifeline service and another week later I got my cell phone. This program is so very helpful and I know of other that -love- it too. It comes pre-loaded with 5 hours of air time and the phone itself is really stylish. Mine is a qwerty slider. :D

  12. says

    Hello,

    My wife is physcially disables and is receiving government aid. As a result, she qualifies under your California LifeLine Telephone Program. She applied in Nov. 2011 and received a qulification letter dated December 7, 2011. We were informed that a cell phone would be mailed to her in a few weeks. Here we are 1 1/2 months later with no news. What can I do to follow up on this order or failure to ship. And to all you people unable to get through. We did it in 10 minutes on the internet then called our local provider as per the instructions which was a since betwee the hours of 9 and 6. Anyway, please provide me with followup info

    Thank you,
    Michael Phillips
    for my wife Terry Heitzinger

  13. says

    I cannot get thru the phones. I live in Califonia and receive Disability and SSI for income and that is it. My mom is 76, whom I live with and she had worked her entire life………… then layed off with everyone a couple years ago. Her unemployment just ran out and she too just has SS. Getting out of these high priced phones would really help immensely Please email back, so perhaps you could send us the forms.

    Mona
    mona.legler@gmail.com