This is an interesting question that comes up more often than you’d think, and unfortunately, tends to hit the most needy.
This is probably a good time to remind our readers that the Lifeline/Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is not intended to provide free phones to every member of a household. Its goal was to provide affordable communication services to low-income households that may otherwise not be able to afford them. The Federal Communications Commission decided that by limiting the number of Lifeline-supported phones or internet services to one per household, the program would be able to help more households access basic communication services.
If someone else lives at the same address as you and already has a Lifeline phone, you will not be eligible to receive your free phone. Sounds logical, at first. But the problem is that there are many situations in which people find themselves living with other adults who may already have a government cell phone.
For example, we had someone write us and say that he lives in a “home” with 300 other veterans, and someone there already has a Safelink Wireless phone — the other 299 could not qualify. Someone else live in a large house with three other couples and one person already had an Assurance Wireless phone.
Update: The Federal Communications Commission has addressed this flaw and it is now possible for people in group home situations, or multiple adults living in the same house, to qualify for the Lifeline/Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). If you live in a group facility or shelter, please see, How to qualify for a free government cell phone if you live in a group home or shelter (FAQ immediately below.)