Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Lifeline and the ACP: Two Federal Assistance Programs You’re Probably Not Using 

What if you didn’t have to worry about your phone bill every month?

You may qualify for FREE Government Cell Phone service every month with the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

For most people, getting free phone service raises a lot of skepticism, but it is entirely possible for most low-income households thanks to the government benefit programs available in the U.S.

Knowing how to save money is an important skill to have in today’s economy, but that doesn’t mean skipping out on essential items like food, phone, and internet services.  

Based on your household income, you may already be enrolled in the following government assistance programs: 

  • Medicaid 
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 
  • Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program 
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) 
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) 
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension 
  • Federal Pell Grant for the current award year 
  • Tribal Specific Programs  

If you participate in any of the above programs, we have some good news! You qualify to receive free cell phone service thanks to the Lifeline Program and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)! 

What is Lifeline? 

US Capitol building with waving American flag to illustrate free government programs available to low-income households.

The Lifeline Program was established in 1984 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help low-income individuals receive affordable access to phones and other essential communications services.  

The program offers qualifying consumers a discounted rate on their monthly service bill of up to $9.25 per month, or up to $34.25 per month for those living on Tribal lands.  

These Lifeline discounts cover phone, internet, and bundled wireless broadband service packages for low-income Americans nationwide.  

The Lifeline Program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which is responsible for determining consumers’ eligibility, managing the Lifeline Support Center, and recertifying beneficiaries annually per the FCC’s regulations.  

How Do You Qualify for Lifeline Benefits? 

You may already qualify for Lifeline if your income is 135% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If you receive any of the following government assistance, you can also qualify for Lifeline.  

  • SNAP or Food stamps 
  • Medicaid 
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 
  • Veteran’s Pension or Survivors Benefit 
  • Tribal specific programs  

Beneficiaries of Lifeline Tribal Benefits may even qualify for additional Lifeline support through the Enhanced Tribal Benefit and Link-Up programs. Keep in mind the Lifeline benefit program is limited to “one per household.” 

What is a Household? 

Happy family sitting on the sofa using internet devices and smartphones thanks to Q Link Wireless's Free phone service, Lifeline, and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

A “household” refers to a group of people living together under a singular home address who share income and contribute to household expenses.  

One Household Examples Include: 

  • Married couples who live together. 
  • Parents or guardians with a child who live together. 
  • Adults living with friends or family members who share finances. 

Multi Household Examples Include: 

  • Five roommates who live together but do not share finances or household expenses. 
  • Ten seniors living in an assisted-living residence who do not share money or expenses.   

How Long Do Lifeline Benefits Last? 

As long as you continue meeting the program criteria, you can keep your benefit. (Many of our customers qualify for years.) Your service provider or USAC will review your eligibility every year to check if you still qualify for your Lifeline benefit.  

Individuals who are currently enrolled in the program must recertify their Lifeline eligibility every year if contacted by USAC in order to continue receiving benefits.  

How Do You Apply for Lifeline?  

Close-up image of a person applying for Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) using their smartphone.

There are several ways to apply for Lifeline:  

  • Online 
  • By mail 
  • Over the phone 
  • With your phone internet service provider 

In each of these cases, you will need to provide your:  

  • Name 
  • Date of birth 
  • Home address  
  • Last four digits of your social security number (SSN) 
  • Tribal identification number (if you have one) 

Making sure you have this information on hand before you begin will make the application process fast and easy.  

If you have a disability and need assistance with your Lifeline application, you may contact the Lifeline Support Center at lifelinesupport.org or call (800) 234-9473. 

Once you qualify, you can ask your current phone or internet provider if they offer the Lifeline discount, or you can sign up with a participating company such as Q Link Wireless to start SAVING

What is the Affordable Connectivity Program? 

Another FCC benefit program for financial phone assistance is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides low-income households with monthly discounts on broadband and mobile services.  

The program allows eligible households to save up to $30 per month on their internet service, and those living on Tribal lands can save up to $75 per month.  

Additionally, consumers can receive a discount of up to $100. As of May 2023, the FCC stated that over 17 million households now benefit from the ACP, saving eligible consumers hundreds of millions of dollars every month. 

How Do You Qualify for the ACP? 

Happy man and woman using a laptop and tablet at a table to apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and Lifeline government benefit program.

Here’s where things get even easier. If you already qualify for Lifeline, you are also eligible to receive ACP benefits.  

Like Lifeline, qualifying for the ACP is based on your household income and/or if you or your child/dependent are enrolled in federal assistance programs like SNAP, FREE school lunch, Medicaid, SSI, or others.  

If you already receive a Lifeline discount, you automatically qualify! 

Can You Combine Lifeline and ACP Benefits? 

YES! Eligible customers can receive the benefits from both programs at the same time and apply them to the same or separate services.  

For example, you can apply both your Lifeline benefit and ACP discounts to a single wireless broadband service provided by the same participating company or choose to use your benefits with two different providers.

How Do You Apply for ACP Benefits? 

The application process for the ACP is like that of Lifeline. You can apply online or mail a form to their main office.  

In either case, you will need to provide your personal information and may be asked to submit additional documentation to verify your program eligibility.  

If you need assistance with your ACP application, you can contact the ACP Support Center at 1-877-384-2575 or view the online ACP application instructions.  

How Long Do ACP Benefits Last? 

Just like Lifeline, you can keep using your ACP benefit for as long as you continue to meet the program’s criteria.  

Every year, USAC will reevaluate your eligibility using their database to see if you still qualify for the ACP.  

If you are asked to recertify, you must respond to the notice in a timely manner to avoid losing your ACP benefit and/or internet service.  

How to Start Using Your Lifeline and ACP Benefits

Happy Asian man looking at his smartphone and celebrating approval for ACP and Lifeline government benefit programs.

If you want to get the most out of your Lifeline and ACP benefits, we recommend you sign up with Q Link Wireless, one of America’s fastest-growing providers of the Lifeline phone program

Who is Q Link Wireless? 

Q Link Wireless offers FREE cell phone service to low-income American households, which includes FREE monthly data, minutes, and unlimited texting. We provide low-cost prepaid wireless cell phone service for both Lifeline and ACP customers.  

Our mission is to empower low-income individuals with service plans that best meet their needs regardless of income status and unite people across the country through affordable, reliable, high-speed connections

What Network Does Q Link Wireless Use? 

By partnering with some of America’s leading wireless service providers, Q Link Wireless’ powerful 4G LTE/ 5G network provides nationwide coverage with the freedom to call ANYWHERE within the U.S. or internationally.

Yes, you can call your friends and family outside of the country for FREE!  

And the best part is subscribers don’t have to worry about monthly bills, contracts, fees, surcharges, or credit checks. (See terms & conditions here.) 

Can You Keep Your Phone and Number with Q Link Wireless?  

Yes! When you join Q Link Wireless, we let you keep your current device and phone number so you can stay connected to your loved ones.  

However, if you’re looking to purchase a new phone at a low cost, you can choose from a wide selection of cell phones and even a stylish tablet for on-the-go entertainment. 

Shop with us for high-end phone brands like Samsung, Android, iPhone, Google Pixel, Motorola, and more — all at affordable prices, by the way.  

Check out Q Link Wireless’ phones and deals

Have You Previously Heard About Lifeline and the ACP? 

Senior woman holding her smartphone device, happy to have free government phone service through Lifeline and ACP.

You’d be surprised to learn how few Lifeline-eligible Americans know about these free government assistance programs.  

The USAC uses information from the U.S. Census American Community Survey (ACS) to calculate how many Lifeline-eligible households participate in the Lifeline program.  

According to the data, the USAC estimates that the total Lifeline participation rate for 2022 was only 19 percent1 across all states.  

This means countless households eligible for the Lifeline benefit in the U.S. are not taking advantage of this opportunity!  

Are you one of them?

Apply Today for Your Lifeline and ACP Benefits 

The Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Assistance programs exist to help low-income Americans stay connected to the world around them.

So don’t wait!

Apply today, spread the word, and start saving on your phone and internet services.  

You’ll be glad you learned about Lifeline and the ACP.  

Once you’re approved, don’t forget to sign up with Q Link Wireless and put your discounts to work! 

1. 2022 Participation rate is derived from data in the 2021 American Community Survey (ACS), U.S. Census Bureau. The “TOTAL” Lifeline participation rate shows the average across all states. See https://www.usac.org/lifeline/resources/program-data/.  

*Tribal lands include any federally recognized Indian tribe’s reservation, Pueblo, or colony, including former reservations in Oklahoma; Alaska Native regions established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688); Indian allotments; Hawaiian Home Lands— areas held in trust for Native Hawaiians by the state of Hawaii, pursuant to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920 July 9, 1921, 42 Stat. 108, et. seq., as amended; and any land designated as such by the FCC pursuant to the designation process in the FCC’s Lifeline rules. A map of qualifying Tribal lands is available) on USAC’s website: https://www.affordableconnectivity.gov/wp-content/uploads/acp/documents/fcc_tribal_lands_map.pdf  

Melissa Halle
Melissa Halle
Melissa Halle is a passionate writer and dedicated advocate for accessible communication and financial empowerment. With a decade of experience, her mission is to help individuals and families get FREE cell phone service while providing information on additional government benefits.

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