Having problems with your monthly phone bills? If your monthly budget seems to be not enough to include a phone, this can help. Popularly known as Obama Phones, the federal government's Lifeline Program can help lower, or even eliminate your monthly phone bills.

Aiming to help make communications services more affordable for low-income consumers, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Lifeline Program. The program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). USAC is in charge of data collection, maintenance, support calculation, and the distribution of funds for this low-income program.

There are a lot of different ways to be qualified for the Lifeline Program or Obama Phone. But once you know you are eligible, you can apply at a participating telephone company for your discount.

Checking if you are Eligible

You need to check if your income is low enough. If your household income is at, or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, you may be qualified for the Lifeline Program. Take note that the household income is based on the total income of everyone in your household, and how many people live in it. These numbers also depend on which state you live in, as some states have higher costs of living than others.

At the end of January every year, the federal poverty guidelines are updated. Make sure that you check this every year so that you know if you still qualify.

Being a part of another social welfare program will help

If you, or someone else in your household, take part in a federal or state assistance program, your household may be qualified for the Lifeline Program. Any of these assistance programs apply:

  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) or Section 8
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as Food Stamps
  • National School Lunch Program's (NSLP) free lunch program
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Medicaid

What if you reside on any federally recognized Indian reservation, Pueblo, or colony, and participate in federal programs through that? You may also qualify through this. Note that this also includes Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Head Start (only in households that meeting the income qualifying standard), Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF), or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

You will also be pleased to know that some states have similar qualifying programs. To find out more, check with your state or program to see if you qualify by participating.

Is there member in your household already receiving the Lifeline Program Assistance?

You need to check if someone in your household is already receiving the Lifeline Program benefits or Obama Phone. Why? Because only one Lifeline Program discount is allowed per household. This means that only one telephone line either wireless or landline, is allowed per household. If this is the case, you will need to discuss with the member of your household which one of you will get or keep the benefit.