California (almost) Free Cell Phones
California always has to do things differently than the rest of the country don’t they? And sure enough, when it comes to participating in the federal Lifeline phone service program, they’re the only participating state that does not offer a free plan. It’s nearly zero cost, but not free.
When we fully understand why there is a minimal charge, we’ll update this page with more information. Until that time, suffice it to say that if you qualify, you can get a heavily discounted mobile phone in California. And even though there is currently just one provider in the state, at least it’s from one of the three major providers: Reachout Wireless.
Every little bit helps in California, with its high unemployment rate at 12%, tens of billions of dollars in the red, and one of the most dysfunctional state governments in the country which will no doubt do all the wrong things to improve the situation.
Update: California nas been approved Assurance Wireless for free cell phones distribution. We’re awaiting the actual announcement that the program is live, and will update this page as soon as we hear.
Providers in California:
Available Plans from Reachout Wireless in California
There are three plans available to those who qualify for Lifeline in California (see below). These plans are also available from Reachout Wireless to non-Lifeline customers at rates that are $13.50 per month higher across the board, which is something to consider if you don’t qualify.
- 250 Minutes for $2.50
- 500 Minutes for $5.00
- 1000 Minutes for $20.00
So, while the basic plan is not free, it’s still just a couple bucks and change a month. Do note that if you go for the higher minutes plans the price does not include taxes, fees and application surcharges. We don’t know what these add up to, so be sure to ask.
How to Qualify
There are two ways to qualify, and they are a bit different than other states.
Method 1 Program-Based – You can qualify if you or another person in your household is enrolled in any one of the following public assistance programs:
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance or Section 8
- Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC)
- Healthy Families Category A
- National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs)
- Stanislaus County Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (StanWORKs)
- Welfare-to-Work (WTW)
- Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN)
Method 2 Income-Based – You may also qualify if your total annual household gross income is at or less than annual income limits for your household size:
|Household Size||Annual Income Limits|
|For each additional member||$5,800|
Note: these number effective through 5/31/12
Latest News for California:
- Free government cell phone war heats up in California: Assurance Wireless enters the state (3/11/2013)
- California joins the 21st century, finally approves free government cell phone program (12/12/2012)
- Free government cell phone program creeps into California (12/8/2011)
- Lifeline Cell Phone Service Comes to California (8/5/2011)
- $3.7 Billion in Income Could Be Generated for the Poor by Making Lifeline-Subsidized Free Cell Phones Available to All Eligible Americans (2/24/2011)
See more cell phone news.
If you have any other questions, please refer to the links in the sidebar.