Assistance with phone bills
By AIDA MALLARD
Special to the Guardian
If you can’t afford a telephone or a cell phone, or you’re struggling to pay your monthly phone bill, help may be available through Lifeline, Link-Up Florida, and SafeLink Wireless, federal programs that provide discounted services to eligible customers.
Kirsten Olsen, spokesperson for the Florida Public Service Commission, said Lifeline, Link-up Florida, and SafeLink Wireless were created by the Federal Communications Commission to provide assistance to low-income eligible telephone subscribers.
Link-Up Florida provides a 50 percent rebate in the telephone hook-up charge, up to $30.
Lifeline Assistance provides a $13.50 per month credit on the local telephone bill.
SafeLink Wireless provides a free cell phone, mobile access to emergency services and free 68 minutes of airtime, monthly, for one year. Not used minutes roll over to the next month,
You may be eligible for these programs if you receive state or federal assistance including Food Stamps, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance Section 8, Supplemental Security Income or SSI, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families or TANF, National Free Lunch program, and Bureau of Indian Affairs Programs.
You may also be eligible if your income is less than 150 percent of the 2009 U.S. poverty guideline. For a look at the income guideline visit www.floridaopc.gov/lifeline.cfm. To apply:
Link-up Florida and Lifeline Assistance programs: If you receive state or federal help, call your local phone company, or download an application at www.psc.state.fl.us/industry/telecomm/lifeline/index.cfm and follow instructions on the application. If you meet the income guidelines, call the Office of Public Counsel in Tallahasse at (800)540-7039, or download an application at www.floridaopc.gov/lifeline.cfm, and follow instructions.
SafeLink Wireless: Applications are available online at www.safelinkwireless.com, or by calling (800) 977-3768 from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, or from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.
Olsen said Link-up, Lifeline, and SafeLink Wireless services are provided through the Universal Service Fund, a federal program that is funded by fees paid by all telephone customers. She said the state draws on the fund based on the people who qualify for these services.
As of June 2009, Olsen said there are about 598,511 participants in Florida.
"The goal is to provide vital communication services to everyone that needs it," said Olsen, "and to make sure everyone has a way to communicate."
For more information and to download a brochure, visit www.floridapsc.com and click on Link-up Florida.