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September 10-16 is National Lifeline Awareness Week
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Telephone service is essential for staying connected to local resources and emergency services, but full-priced phone service can be unaffordable for low-income consumers. Lifeline is a subsidy program that provides discounts on telephone service to eligible low-income households in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal Lands. Consumers who qualify for Lifeline pay a fraction of the regular cost for telephone connection and monthly local telephone service. As more consumers struggle to pay their bills in today’s tough economy, it’s more important than ever for everyone to be aware of this program so they can stay connected.
Lifeline Awareness Week (September 10-16) is the perfect time to learn more about the federal/state phone service discount program, find out if you’re eligible to participate or, if you’re already a Lifeline subscriber, learn how you could be affected by recent program changes.
Consumer Action offers free materials for consumers and training tools for educators on the California LifeLine program. (Some states, such as California, adopt their own eligibility criteria and offer additional benefits, while other states follow federal Lifeline guidelines.) These resources, which include a multilingual consumer guide, PowerPoint training slides, a chart of approved wireless service providers in California, Lifeline eligibility and application worksheets and more, can be read or downloaded at the Consumer Action website.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers a consumer guide to the federal Lifeline program. An online screening tool makes it easy to determine whether you’re eligible for Lifeline discounts.
It’s important to note that there have been some recent changes to the Lifeline program, including:
- Increased annual income limits
- An annual re-certification requirement for all Lifeline subscribers (previously, carriers had to re-certify only a sample group of total subscribers)
- Enforcement of a one-Lifeline-discount-per-household limit
- Increased availability of wireless service (rather than just landline, or wired, service)
These changes mean that consumers who could not qualify for Lifeline before may be able to qualify now, and that current Lifeline subscribers will be required to re-confirm their program eligibility and to select a single service provider if their household currently receives more than one Lifeline discount. (There may be exceptions for households with a deaf or hearing-impaired member.)
If you are a Lifeline subscriber and have questions about the program or your continued eligibility, contact the company that provides your telephone service directly. You can find the phone number on your monthly billing statement. AT&T California customers can call 800-446-5651 (English) or 800-882-0521 (Spanish) or go online to www.att.com/lifeline.
This year, Consumer Action and AT&T California are bringing information about California LifeLine directly to San Francisco’s Chinese community, including new immigrants, participants in job training programs, young families and the disabled. Two Chinese-language presentations will be held in October. For more information on Chinese-language presentations about the California LifeLine program, contact Audrey Perrott or Jamie Woo of Consumer Action at 415-777-9648.
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