“I live in a homeless shelter. Do I qualify for a free government cell phone?”
“I had to leave my home last week and move into a battered women’s shelter. How can I get a free government cell phone?”
If you read the comments section found below many of our articles, you know that questions like the ones above are very important to many of our readers.The rules of the Lifeline Assistance free government cell phone program have always said that only one cell phone is allowed per residence. Unfortunately, that has meant that many needy, deserving people were denied phones because someone else living at their group residence already showed up in the government’s national fraud protection data base.
But that needn’t be the case. There is a way for you to get a free government cell phone even if someone else at your shelter already has one. All you need to do is fill out what’s called a “one-per-household worksheet.” Each phone vendor should have a worksheet upon request. You can find an example of the worksheet, along with further information, on the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC)’s website here. You can also view a copy of a sample worksheet by clicking the thumbnail to the left.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) makes this clear in new, recently-revised language on its website:
Federal rules prohibit eligible low-income subscribers from receiving more than ONE Lifeline service per household. That is, eligible low-income subscribers may receive a Lifeline discount on either a wireline or a wireless service, but may not receive a Lifeline discount on both services at the same time. Additionally, only ONE Lifeline service may be obtained per household. “Household” is defined as any individual or group of individuals who live together at the same address as one economic unit. An “economic unit” is defined as “all adult individuals contributing to and sharing in the income and expenses of a household.” However, Lifeline support is available to eligible low-income subscribers living in group living facilities. Lifeline applicants may demonstrate when initially enrolling in the program that any other Lifeline recipients residing at their residential address are part of a separate household by completing the one-per-household worksheet. (emphasis ours)
Many Lifeline Assistance free government cell phone companies now attempt to make this clear by including the bolded statement on their websites. Others, like Assurance Wireless, clarify the situation with their own statements:
“Separate households that live at the same address are eligible, including residents of homeless shelters and nursing homes. Residents with temporary addresses are also eligible. A household is define as any individual or group of individuals who live together at the same address and share income and expenses.”
Is this real? Can you really qualify for a free government cell phone even if you live in a group home or shelter? Absolutely. In fact, some cities are now actively seeking out individuals who didn’t qualify for the program under the old rules.
For example, SFGate.com wrote about Bevan Dufty, the head of San Francisco’s municipal homeless initiative and part of the the city’s Coalition on Homelessness.
“Dufty said that in the coming weeks he will send representatives to low-income housing complexes, homeless shelters and other places where people will want to know how to apply for the free phones.”
“‘We are very excited by this,’ he said. ‘It will help people move forward. It will empower them, and we in San Francisco are going to be a model city for this program.'”
What does it take to qualify?
To simplify things for you before you contact a Lifeline phone vendor and request the worksheet, here are the relevant questions:
– If you checked NO, please answer question #2.
2. Other than a spouse or partner, do other adults (people over the age of 18 or emancipated minors) live with you at your address?
B. An adult son or daughter __YES __NO
C. Another adult relative __YES __NO
D. An adult roommate __YES __NO
E. Other ___________ (such as a sibling, aunt, cousin, grandparent, grandchild, etc.)
If you checked NO for each statement above, you do not need to answer the remaining questions. Please initial line B, below, and sign and date the worksheet. If you checked YES, please answer question #3.
3. Do you share living expenses (bills, food, etc.) and share income (either your income, the other person’s income or both incomes together) with at least one of the adults listed above in question #2? _____YES _____NO
– If you checked YES, then your address includes only one household. You may not sign up for Lifeline because someone in your household already receives Lifeline.
If you live in a group home or shelter, and feel you qualify, give one of the Lifeline cell phone companies a call and be sure to tell them you are requesting the “one-per-household worksheet.” You can find a list of phone providers by state when you click here.