It sounds almost too good to be true, but there really is a program called Lifeline that can help you get free government cell phones in Pennsylvania.  This article will explain the program background, benefits, and qualifications so you can make an informed decision if this is right for you.


Lifeline has been around since 1984 as a program to provide discounted (or even free!) phone service.  It used to only cover LAN lines but has been recently expanded to provide cell phone service.  The federal government has designated a nonprofit company called Universal Service Administrative Company to manage the program. Lifeline is completely funded by a fee most phone companies pass on to consumers as a Universal Connectivity Fee.


The Lifeline cell phone program includes a free phone and 250 monthly voice minutes.  You will typically also get caller ID, voicemail, 9-11 service, and call waiting. Actual features vary by phone carrier, but luckily there are many phone companies that participate in the program.  Many program participants choose to pay for additional minutes and services.  Even when you add these optional costs, the total monthly bill is almost always less than what you could find anywhere else.


While qualifications vary between states, Pennsylvania has made it very easy! You can qualify either by having an income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines ($30,173 for a family of four in 2011) or by participating in any of the following programs:

  • Medicaid
  • Food Stamps/SNAP
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • General Assistance
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • The National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program (NSL)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
  • National School Lunch Program (Free Lunch Program Only)
  • Total household income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Is Lifeline Right for Me? Only you can answer this question, but remember that the money has already been set side for you to claim! Free government cell phones in Pennsylvania are being handed out to anyone who wants one and can meet the income requirements.

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