California Free Cell Phones

One would think that the trendsetting state of California would be at the forefront of the free government cell phone program. But it wasn’t until late 2012 that the first company, ReachOut Wireless, entered the state. Unfortunately, when they did, the program had a small monthly fee associated with it. However, this still was much less than a traditional plan sets a phone user back.

But now Lifeline cell phone giant Assurance Wireless has joined the battle for distributing free phones to needy Californians. And better news yet, not only is Assurance Wireless offering the program for at no cost, but ReachOut Wireless is also doing so now.

This is great news for the not-so-Golden State with their unemployment levels higher than national average, and run by one of the most dysfunctional governments in the country.

The two companies listed below are two of the big five players, with Safelink Wireless, Budget Mobile and Life Wireless missing. We would not doubt that they and others begin operations in the state shortly.

Providers in California:

Bakersfield, CA: The companies above give you 250 minutes and 250 texts each month for free (although they have upgraded plans for a cost). However, if you live in the Bakersfield, California area you are luck! The smaller company, Telescape. will give you 1,000 minutes and 200 texts per month, all for free.

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:

  • Medicaid/Medi-Cal
  • 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)
    1. California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs)
    2. Stanislaus County Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (StanWORKs)
    3. Welfare-to-Work (WTW)
    4. Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN)
  • Tribal TANF
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Head Start Income Eligible (Tribal Only)

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
1-2 members $25,100
3 members $29,300
4 members $35,400/td>
For each additional member $6,100

Note: Effective from 06/01/13 to 05/31/14

Latest News for California:

California breaks out the checkbook, offers more money to free government cell phone companies - In addition to the $9.25 that the federal government pays Lifeline cell phone providers, California will now pay those companies an additional $6.35 to $13.15 per month for some customers.
Free government cell phone war heats up in California: Assurance Wireless enters the state - Assurance Wireless has just been approved to offer free cell phones in California. And that is good news, indeed, for low-income residents of the nation’s largest state.
California joins the 21st century, finally approves free government cell phone program - The California Public Utility Commission is just weeks away from authorizing Sprint’s Assurance Wireless subsidiary to offer free government cell phones.
Free government cell phone program creeps into California - Telescape is providing cell phones for low-income residents in Bakersfield, California under the Lifeline program. The plan gives $2.50 per month for 300 minutes.
Lifeline Cell Phone Service Comes to California - California has been conspicuously absent from the list of participating Lifeline states. But now it's covered by fast-growing cell phone company ReachOut Wireless.
$3.7 Billion in Income Could Be Generated for the Poor by Making Lifeline-Subsidized Free Cell Phones Available to All Eligible Americans - $3.7 Billion in Personal Income Lost in States – Including CA, CO, HI, MT, NE, ND, OK, SD, VT and WY – Without Access to Program for Their Poorest Citizens.

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