Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia and Puerto offer programs that offer free phones and free service to Americans on government assistance, or simply those who are below certain income thresholds. The programs and eligibility vary in each state. In some states you might get unlimited calling and texting, and even some data allowance; and other states offer lesser, but still very good plans.
To check on your own state’s providers and specific qualification criteria, just click on your state below. Some states have all of the major Lifeline cell phone companies and often quite a few smaller players. Some states have one or two companies, and sadly if you are the one state that is not on the list, your state does not yet have service. But it could very well soon, in fact, it’s very likely.
CLICK ON YOUR STATE BELOW TO GET STARTED:
The ability for the financially disadvantaged to get a free cell phone in these tough economic times is moving at breakneck speed across the country. While the Lifeline Assistance and Link-Up programs were helping people afford landline phones since 1996. It wasn’t until 2008 that the first state certified a company to provide cell phones for free. That was when Tracfone launched Safelink Wireless in Tennessee.
In all, there are 49 states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, where the government cell phone program is available to low-income and others already on government assistance. The program begin in 2008 when a company named Tracfone started their Safelink Wireless service in Tennessee. Year’s later almost the entire country is covered. Chances are that, if you qualify, you’ll find a provider that can get a phone shipped right out to you.
What are the Lifeline eligibility rules for each state?
The eligibility requirements vary from state to state, due to various government aid programs that are state-specific. However, these programs are simply added on to the qualifying federal programs that are available in all states. Here are the federal programs you can count on qualifying with in every state:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
- Veterans Pension and Survivor's Benefit.
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance (BIA)
- Tribally Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF)
- Tribal Head Start (only those households meeting its income qualifying standard)
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
In addition, you are able to qualify by your income level. Most states want to see that your total household income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for your state; a smaller number of states are at 150%. Each state page we link to above will tell you in detail what those levels are.
If you need more information on the overall program before selecting a cell phone provider, please begin from the top at our free cell phones home page.