Assurance Wireless, powered by Virgin Mobile, offers a free cell phone with monthly service that includes 250 minutes and 250 texts to low-income individuals who qualify through the Federal Lifeline Assistance Program.
The Lifeline Assistance Program is funded by the federal Universal Service Fund, which is funded by wireless carriers, who in turn generally tag on a fee to consumers in their monthly bills. For example, I see a 63 cent/month charge on a $40 monthly cell phone line and I've seen a 26 cent/month charge on a $10 monthly line.
The Lifeline Assistance program is available for only one account per household. Separate households that live at the same address are eligible, such as residents of homeless shelters and nursing homes. Residents with temporary addresses are also eligible.
As a California resident, you can qualify if you participate in certain public assistance programs or if you below certain income levels:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka Food Stamps)
- National School Lunch Program
- California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
- Various other public assistance programs
- Income levels falling within the following amounts (effective through 5/31/14)
- $25,100 for a household of 1-2
- $29,300 for a household of 3
- $35,400 for a household of 4
- Add another $6,100 for each additional household member above 4
The program also allows individuals to purchase additional minutes. For example, for $5/month, Assurance will double the minutes and texts from 250 to 500 each. To learn more, visit www.assurancewireless.com.
To learn more about the Federal Lifeline Assistance Program at www.fcc.gov/guides/lifeline-and-link-affordable-telephone-service-income-eligible-consumers.