Lifeline Phone Service: What it is and How to Apply

The Lifeline phone program, administered by the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) and overseen by the FCC, has been providing a discount on phone service to low-income Americans since 1985.

This program was started to ensure that all Americans, regardless of income, have access to the security and opportunity that a phone service offers. This includes being able to look for jobs, access emergency services, and stay connected with friends and family.

Access to phone service has become increasingly critical as we advance into the digital age. Many jobs require the use of a working smartphone, and access to one can be the difference between working and not working. This program is available to any eligible American. This includes every state, commonwealth, territory, and Tribal land. 

The USAC is in control of data collection and maintenance, calculating support, and disbursing benefits for the Lifeline program. To learn more about the program's administration, visit USAC's website.

What is Lifeline Phone Service?

The Lifeline phone service provides financial support for qualifying, low-income Americans to help them gain access to phone and broadband services. The Lifeline program does this by lowering the monthly cost of a phone and/or internet services. The Lifeline phone service was expanded back in 2016 to include broadband services. If you qualify, you’ll receive a discount of $9.25 on phone, broadband, or a bundled service package. 

How Do You Qualify for Lifeline Phone Service?

1. Household Income Qualification

You can qualify for Lifeline, if your household income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Eligibility is based on the size of your household and where it is located. The table below reflects 135% of the 2022 Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Household Size

48 States,
DC and Territories

Alaska

Hawaii

1

$18,347

$22,937

$21,101

2

$24,719

$30,902

$28,431

3

$31,091

$38,867

$35,762

4

$37,463

$46,832

$43,092

5

$43,835

$54,797

$50,423

6

$50,207

$62,762

$57,753

7

$56,579

$70,727

$65,084

8

$62,951

$78,692

$72,414

For each extra person, please add:

$6,372

$7,965

$7,331

Note: California and Texas have additional state Lifeline subsidies that offer the benefit to households with 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines when using the income-qualification method.

2. Qualified Program Participation

Your household is also eligible for the Lifeline phone service discount, if you or someone in your household participates in the following programs:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/Food Stamps/Food Assistance)
  • Medicaid/ Medi-Cal
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) or Section 8
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit

You may need to show proof of participation, such as a benefit letter or other official document when you apply for Lifeline.

If your household is on qualifying Tribal land, here are the programs you can participate in to be eligible for Lifeline, in addition to any of the programs listed above. 

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Head Start (only if you qualified for this program based on income)
  • Tribal TANF (Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)