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Anyone here get a free cell phone?
Old 03-01-2014, 07:05 PM   #1
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Anyone here get a free cell phone?

So I see these ads for Assurance Wireless Lifeline cell phone program. Apparently if you make less than 135% FPL, or are on Medicaid you get a free cell phone with 250 minutes / 250 texts per month.

Anyone take advantage of this?
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Old 03-01-2014, 09:00 PM   #2
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I am pretty sure there are asset means tests (not just income test) for programs such as this. Similar to food stamps / SNAP... Not positive but recalled seeing a summary of federal aid programs website where it was all listed on a page

Obamacare subsidies do not yet have asset means testing, only income but I bet it doesn't take long to put that in place too.
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Old 03-01-2014, 09:14 PM   #3
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There is no resource test, only income test, at least in NY.
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Old 03-02-2014, 08:31 AM   #4
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If your income is below 135% of the FPL ($15,079.50 if you are single or $20,425.50 for married couples) ..
I do not think there are too many members in this forum falls into this category.
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Old 03-02-2014, 08:52 AM   #5
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No, we pay for our cell phones and would just use our landline if we could not afford to pay for our cell ourselves.
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Old 03-02-2014, 10:10 AM   #6
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I would say none of us would wish that we qualify for the program.
+1 ... no thanks.
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Old 03-02-2014, 10:27 AM   #7
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Just because someone has little income does not mean they have no assets. Maneuvering income flow is crucial to obtaining the lowest tax rates, subsidies, and benefits. It is almost a new science.
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Old 03-02-2014, 11:42 AM   #8
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When my Dad had a home health aide she had one of these [MOD EDIT] The income limits are interesting because she was making at least $1000/week working for my Dad.

Hmmmm.......
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Old 03-02-2014, 11:56 AM   #9
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When my Dad had a home health aide she had one of these [MOD EDIT].

The income limits are interesting because she was making at least $1000/week working for my Dad.

Hmmmm.......
Was she seeing the $1K a week or did an agency take a cut? $52K a year is a high salary for a home health aid.
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Old 03-02-2014, 12:30 PM   #10
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She was paid directly, no agency. The rate was $15/hour and she worked at least 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for a limited time. She didn't want any days off, her home life was full of people who were more hassle and aggravation than my Dad and she knew her time working for him would be limited. After a few months she went to 8 or 10 hours a day. Total time with him was about 6 months.
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Old 03-02-2014, 12:30 PM   #11
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From snopes, here's a list of eligibility:

"snopes link here"

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these programs are implemented at both the state and federal levels, so qualification criteria can vary from state to state, but in general participants must have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines, or take part in at least one of the following federal assistance programs:
Medicaid;
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP);
Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8);
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP);
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF);
National School Lunch Program's Free Lunch Program;
Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance;
Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF);
Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR);
Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met); or
State assistance programs (if applicable).
I've seen the form to qualify for the school lunch program in IL, and I find it to be an 'odd' form. IIRC, it only asked for 'monthly income' (or maybe weekly?) - without any definition of what comprises 'income' or any request for documentation. Nothing like 'line xx from your 1040' or anything official. And I'm not aware of any checks on it. So if someone is self employed and had no income that week, or was hourly and took a one week vacation, would 'zero' be a correct answer? To my knowledge, it would go unquestioned. And I've heard that schools sometimes actively encourage people to sign up, as a higher ratio of 'needy' students helps them to qualify for other funds.

Personally, I think the phone should be limited to 911 and other emergency/reporting services and should process other calls through some kind of electronic 'switchboard' with a list of credentialed numbers (employers, employment agencies and registered hiring firms, govt agencies, day care, schools, etc).

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Old 03-02-2014, 01:16 PM   #12
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My BIL has one of these. He does not have a landline. He's on SSI disability and it's just one of the resources he qualifies for. He can't work due to mental illness issues. It's a relief for the family that we can now reach him by phone. Prior to this we had to call his neighbor in the apartment next door if we had an emergency and needed to reach him.
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Old 03-02-2014, 01:16 PM   #13
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Personally, I think the phone should be limited to 911 and other emergency/reporting services and should process other calls through some kind of electronic 'switchboard' with a list of credentialed numbers (employers, employment agencies and registered hiring firms, govt agencies, day care, schools, etc).
Wouldn't that cost more than just giving away a low level of service?
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Old 03-02-2014, 01:58 PM   #14
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Wouldn't that cost more than just giving away a low level of service?
I don't think so, but there's no way for me to know for sure. Think about this:

First) It would just be an electronic thing, my VOIP phone has lots of controls built in, it should be easy to set up a generic 'contact list' with emergency numbers, and only calls on that contact list are processed. Potential employers who are currently hiring could 'opt in' to the list, as could caregivers etc. Joe's corner bar could not. I don't think that would cost hardly anything to manage.

Second) Since it couldn't be easily used for other than legitimate 'need to know' communications, I bet far fewer would sign up for them, so that could be a big savings. Anecdotal, but I've heard of people signing up for these when they have an iPhone hanging around their neck. If they are free, why not? Have a spare, save 250 minutes of charges on your other phone, sell it. That money could be better used to help people with real needs.

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Old 03-02-2014, 02:03 PM   #15
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Wouldn't that cost more than just giving away a low level of service?
Yes, that's exactly the issue.
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Old 03-02-2014, 02:41 PM   #16
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Depending on your outlook, this is either just another government give away to lazy bums who want something for nothing or a lifeline for the poor so they can access essential services and find jobs.

The Obama Phone?
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Old 03-02-2014, 03:09 PM   #17
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Depending on your outlook, this is either just another government give away to lazy bums who want something for nothing or a lifeline for the poor so they can access essential services and find jobs.

The Obama Phone?
X2. I am glad that I do not have to be in this position. I am not glad that I am one of the ones paying for all these gov't programs.
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Old 03-02-2014, 03:54 PM   #18
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Depending on your outlook, this is either just another government give away to lazy bums who want something for nothing or a lifeline for the poor so they can access essential services and find jobs. ...
I don't agree. It isn't all one or the other. How many things are?

I'm sure many people have a need, and this has helped them. I'm pretty sure that some people have taken it as 'something for nothing'.

I think we have the technology to easily make these phones work for the intended purpose, and make them less attractive to someone w/o a real need.

I do get mildly offended by the articles that stress that no taxpayer dollars are involved. That's technically true, but misleading. The law requires the telcos to fund this, and the telcos include it in their cost of doing business, so the cost is passed onto the other consumers - just about everybody else. It isn't a direct tax, but it really is effectively a tax.

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Old 03-02-2014, 03:55 PM   #19
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The 'free phones' with one hour of usage time monthly are available to persons earning below 135% of the poverty line or participate in a qualifying state, federal, or tribal assistance program. The phones are provided as part of the Lifeline program run by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). The program is not paid for by tax revenue. Telephone companies fund the program, typically through a fee that they charge subscribers.

The program exists as part of a series of efforts to ensure that all persons have access to basic telecommunications service. This is a direct result of the Kingsbury Commitment of 1913 that required The Phone Company to provide service to all. WilsonPhones, if you will...

The cellphones under this program have been very useful for local homeless families and individuals looking for work and housing.
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Old 03-02-2014, 06:11 PM   #20
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My BIL has one of these. He does not have a landline. He's on SSI disability and it's just one of the resources he qualifies for. He can't work due to mental illness issues. It's a relief for the family that we can now reach him by phone. Prior to this we had to call his neighbor in the apartment next door if we had an emergency and needed to reach him.
My 79 year old mother receives about $1K/month in SS. That's it. Other than SS and medicare, she receives no other direct government assistance. This income puts her at the official poverty level. Admittedly, she also has about $85K in savings and she lives in what was a church subsidized apartment building so her rent is comparatively low. Despite living at the poverty level, my mother is able to pay for both a landline and cell phone. She has a car, cable TV, and dial-up internet access. If my mother could not afford phone service and I wanted to be able to contact her in an emergency, I believe it should be my responsibility as her child and family member to pay for the service (undoubtedly, she would decline help). While I realize everyone's situation is different, it seems likely that the vast majority of families could swing the $100/yr necessary for a low-cost cell phone plan to keep the communication lines open with a relative suffering from financial hardship.

What baffles me is the generous allotment of 250 voice minutes and 250 text messages every month (this is the Lifeline provision in California). Huh? Do people really need to communicate this extensively with essential services? I probably spend 30 minutes/yr on the phone with what might be considered essential services (medical appointments, utilities, etc). To be honest, it is probably closer to 10 minutes/yr. Granted, I am looking at this from a minimalist perspective. I am in good health. I am not homeless. I am not looking for a job. I am not a parent so there is no need for me to contact schools or day care centers. But 250 minutes a month? Do parents really spend 4 hours every month speaking with their kid's teachers on the phone? And text messages too? I just don't get it - the need for the average person to spend so much time on the phone. But I do not get Facebook either.

I am not sure if this baffles me as a fee/taxpayer, a frugal person, a luddite who does not even own a cell phone, or as an introvert who does not need to spend hours on the phone every day blithering to people on the other end. This is unlike the rather loud woman in Wal-Mart yesterday who seemed compelled to follow me around the store just so I could hear every word of her cell phone conversation:
"I am going to kick his f****** a** if he ever does that again" (in the food section), "I told her that in private, she had no right to tell her mom" (in the health products section) ... "she needs to get a lawyer and sue his a**" (in the household goods section) ... "he better not ever talk to me like that" (down in electronics).
Lady, do you realize half the store can hear every word of your bleeping conversation? While I doubt this woman was using a free phone, I still don't get it.

Yes, there are people in real need who deserve our help. But there are also a lot of people who take advantage of free situations. I certainly do. Between 2004 and 2010, the State of California through its Consumer Assistance Program paid me about $2000 for costs related to my car (e.g., car repairs). They even purchased my car from me in 2010 for $1000 even though the car had essentially no blue-book value. This was free money from a so-called financially strapped state to a person in the top few percent. Or consider the ER-people here with decent portfolio's but small incomes who are or will receive ACA subsidies. I doubt it is any different with Lifeline service or free cell phones. Some people have a real need. A lot of people don't.
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