Lifeline - What Consumers Should Know – updated May 14, 2013

What is Lifeline?

Lifeline is a government program that permits eligible consumers to receive discounted telephone service. This program is available only to those who meet certain eligibility requirements.

How much can I save?

A consumer can save between $16.00 and $18.39 (amounts subject to change) on their basic service monthly landline bill. These benefits apply to basic local telephone service charges that are purchased as measured service (including local usage), or as flat rate service. Alternatively, a consumer may receive a wireless phone with up to 250 free minutes monthly.

How do I know if I am eligible?

Eligibility is based on household income and participation in one or more of the programs listed below. A consumer may be eligible based on either household income OR program participation; it is not necessary that a consumer meet multiple eligibility criteria. However, ONLY ONE LIFELINE SERVICE DISCOUNT IS AVAILABLE TO EACH ELIGIBLE HOUSEHOLD. FEDERAL LAW PROHIBITS MORE THAN ONE PERSON IN EACH HOUSEHOLD FROM SUBSCRIBING TO A SEPARATE LIFELINE SERVICE.

Household Income: A household is eligible for Lifeline if the total household income is at or below certain levels, depending on the size of the household. For 2013, the guidelines are as follows:

Persons in family            Household Annual Income

1 ...................................................... $15,512

2 ...................................................... $20,939

3 ...................................................... $26,366

4 ...................................................... $31,793

5 ...................................................... $37,220

6 ...................................................... $42,647

7 ...................................................... $48,074

8 ...................................................... $53,501

*For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $5,427 for each additional person.

Program Participation: An individual or household is eligible for Lifeline if the individual or one member of the household participates in one of the following programs:

  • Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC)
  • Fuel Assistance (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or "LIHEAP")
  • MassHealth or Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
  • National School Lunch Program (free meals program only)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

What proof of eligibility do I need to provide when I apply?

Eligibility is verified by the telephone carriers that offer Lifeline service. You must provide proof of your eligibility by submitting acceptable documentation as listed below. You will also be required to sign a form, under penalty of perjury, that certifies that you meet the income-based or program-based eligibility criteria, among other things.

Acceptable documentation of income eligibility includes the prior year's state or federal tax return, current income statement from an employer or paycheck stub, a Social Security statement of benefits, a Veterans Administration statement of benefits, a retirement/pension statement of benefits, an Unemployment/Workmen's Compensation statement of benefits, a federal notice letter of participation in General Assistance, or a divorce decree, child support award, or other official document containing income information.

Acceptable documentation of program eligibility includes the current or prior year’s statement of benefits from a qualifying state or federal assistance program, a notice or letter of participation in a qualifying state or federal assistance program, program participation documents (e.g., the consumer’s SNAP electronic benefit transfer card or MassHealth participation card (or copy thereof)), or another official document evidencing the household’s participation in a qualifying state or federal program.

At the discretion of the Lifeline service provider, you may be able to present documentation of eligibility by multiple methods, including in-person and by mail. A carrier will not retain copies of this documentation after it verifies your eligibility.

Are there any restrictions?

There is a limit of one Lifeline discount per household, where “household” is defined as any individual or group of individuals who are living together at the same address as one economic unit.

How do I apply?

Contact a Massachusetts Lifeline provider to obtain more information about Lifeline or to apply. The providers that offer Lifeline service in Massachusetts are:

 

 

How do I continue to receive the Lifeline discount?

Eligibility WILL BE reviewed annually by your Lifeline provider. Your provider will contact you, and you must respond within 30 days certifying under penalty of perjury that you still qualify for Lifeline service. When your Lifeline provider asks you to recertify your eligibility, you must respond if you wish to keep your Lifeline service.

In addition, if at any time while subscribing to lifeline you become ineligible for Lifeline service, you are required under federal law to notify your Lifeline provider within 30 days.

If your Lifeline provider determines that you are no longer eligible for Lifeline, it will notify you via letter and your Lifeline service will be terminated 30 days after the date of such letter, unless you provide proof of eligibility. Alternatively, if you do not respond to an annual re-certification request from your Lifeline provider, your service will be terminated 30 days after the date of such request. If you are not eligible for Lifeline service, contact a service provider to inquire about the most beneficial rate plan for you.

Other Useful information

  • Being a Lifeline customer does not protect you from being disconnected if you fail to pay your telephone bill.
  • The Lifeline discount cannot be applied to an outstanding balance owed to your telephone company.
  • You may choose either a landline or wireless Lifeline service.

If you need additional information or experience issues with your Lifeline service provider, call or email the Consumer Division of the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable at 1-800-392-6066 or consumer.complaints@state.ma.us.