The offer of free cellphones to low-income families in Michigan is a continuation of a government program to deal with adverse trends in the labor market through its vast welfare system.  Countless stories are recounted daily of individuals who have previously been in well-paying jobs but are now on food stamps.  They also face the added difficulty of not being able to get back on their feet fast for the simple reason that potential employers can’t reach them on a phone.

The US Government’s Lifeline Program assists low-income individuals in the state of Michigan to keep communicating in the event that they are unable to cater for it.  Three options are offered to Michigan residents through Assurance Wireless, ReachOut Wireless and SafeLink Wireless.  Furthermore, a qualifying household’s income should not be above 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. To be eligible, participants should apply on the website of their chosen provider where they should also provide a postal address.  Participants are also required to be enlisted on 1 of the other government assistance programs such as:

  • Food Stamps
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
  • Medicaid
  • National School Lunch Program (Free Lunch Program Only)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Total household income at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines

The program is supported by the Universal Service Fund of the Federal Communication Commission whereby telecommunications companies contribute a percentage of their total revenues. They are not obliged to pass this contribution to their clients.

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