If you’re struggling to pay your bills, you may qualify for one of the free government cell phones in South Carolina!  This article will help you understand the background of the program, the benefits, the qualifications, and if the program can help you.

History of Lifeline
The federal Lifeline program has helped consumers get free or discounted phone service since 1984.  The program is administered by a nonprofit corporation called the Universal Service Administrative Company.  Lifeline originally only provided free or discount land line service, but now cell phones are included as an option.

The Lifeline cell phone program provides a free phone with 250 free minutes each month.  Many cellular phone providers participate in the program and offer voice mail, caller id, call waiting, 911 access, and customer support as part of the free package.  It’s important to compare cell phone providers who offer this service because additional minutes and services vary from one carrier to another.  You should add additional paid minutes if you expect to go over the free minutes.  Most providers charge a higher per-minute fee than you would pay for a block of more prepaid minutes.

Do You Qualify?
Lifeline Qualifications vary from state to state.  In South Carolina, you may qualify if you receive any or all of the following:

  • Food Stamps 
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Medicaid
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • National School Lunch Program (Free Lunch Program Only)

You may only have one Lifeline service.  That means if you receive a land line subsidy, you must cancel that before applying for the free cell phone service.

Is this Right for Me?
As long as you meet the program qualifications, there is no reason why you shouldn’t participate in the Lifeline program.  The government has set up this program to help every American afford telephone service.  Free government cell phones in South Carolina are not paid for by the taxpayer and will not add to the national debt.  The only question is which do you prefer: a free cell phone or a free LAN line?


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