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Qualifications for Lifeline

lifeline qualifications government

The Lifeline program is controlled by our Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Due to the suspicion of fraudulent use and abuse of the program, the FCC on February 6 of 2012 released a reform of Lifeline which enacted many changes to Lifeline. In an attempt to simplify the qualifications for lifeline, a uniform set of requirements to qualify were set forth. There is an allowance for individual states to estabilish their own qualifications in addition to the Federal ones.

If you or someone in your household is currently enjoying benefits from at least one of these Federal default programs (seen below), you qualify for the Lifeline program. Additionally, there may be more qualifying programs offered by your state that are not listed on this page. Check your state for other criteria.

If no one in your household is enrolled in one of these programs, you might still be qualified based of the total income for your household. The Federal default requirement is that household income does not exceed 135% of the poverty level (table is shown below). Some states make a more generous income requirement of 150% of the poverty line.

The baseline Federal default Lifeline qualifying programs are:
  • Veteran’s Pension or Survivor’s Pension Benefit
  • Medicaid
  • Suppl. Nutrition Ass't Program (aka SNAP or Food Stamps
  • Fed. Public Housing Assist (or Section 8)
  • Supplemental Sec. Income (SSI)

Per the new Lifeline order, those seeking the Lifeline subsidy based on program eligility (such as SNAP, Medicaid etc), will need to show proof of participation in that program. This will not be necessary in those states that provide an eligibilty database to phone service providers. If database access is available to the provider you are applying to and, you are matched in that database, you will not need proof. For those needing to supply proof, a list of acceptable forms of proof can be found on this page in the left column.
If you qualify because of your income level, you will need to show proof of your total household income. (See the acceptable forms of proof to the left on this page)

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Federal Poverty Guidelines at 135% for 2021

Persons in Household Lower 48
& D.C.
One $17,388
Two $23,517
Three $29,646
Four $35,775
Five $41,904
Six $48,033
Seven $54,162
Eight $60,291
Per Add'l Person $6,129

*Household is described as a person or a group of people who live together at one address as a single economic unit.
An Economic unit is described as all adults who share and contribute to income & expenses.

What about activation costs?
There was a program called Link-Up that provided assistance with the activation costs associated with getting a new phone line turned on. As part of the reform order recently published by the FCC, the Link-up program for non-Tribal lands was eliminated. The order to eliminate Link-up went into effect on April 2, 2012.

For more information about the Lifeline program, visit the USAC website
If you would like to learn more about Lifeline's reform order, rules and regulations, visit the FCC website.

Important Lifeline Facts

  • Lifeline is a Federal Gov't Benefit
  • Lifeline service is available for only ONE line per household*, wireless or wire line.
  • A household* can not receive benefits from Lifeline from more than one provider.
  • Violating the one-per-household limit will constitute a violation of the rules of the commission and will result in de-enrollment from the program for the violating subscriber and could possibly result in prosecution by the Government of the United States.
  • Providing false or fraudulent information to receive Lifeline benefits is punishable by law.

More information about Lifeline

Proof of Program Participation
Acceptable forms of proof of participation in a qualifying program are:

  • Program participation documents (e.g. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) electronic benefit transfer card or Medicaid participation card (or copy therof))
  • The current or prior year's statement of benefits from a qualifying state, federal, or Tribal program
  • A notice letter of participation in a qualifying state, federal, or Tribal program
  • Other official document demonstrating that you or a member of your household receives benefits from a qualifying state, federal, or Tribal program

Proof of Income
Acceptable forms of proof of income are:

  • The prior year's state, federal, or Tribal tax return
  • Three consecutive months worth of income statements from an employer or paycheck stubs within the current calendar year
  • Veterans Administration statement of benefits
  • Social Security statement of benefits
  • Retirement / Pension statement of benefits
  • Federal or Tribal notice letter of participation in General Assistance
  • Unemployment / Workman's Compensation statement of benefits
  • Divorce decree, child support award, or other official financial document containing income information for at least three month's time.