The lifeline program is a short writeup.  It provides cellular and internet service at a discount for people living in poverty.

The current Federal Poverty Level for a single individual is $12,760 per year meaning if you make $12,761 or more and are living by yourself in a studio or 1 bedroom you are not considered to be in poverty by the Federal Government. This level of poverty is supposed to be defined by the Office of Management and Budget based off of Census Data and they are delegated control over defining the Federal Poverty Line by Congress in compliance with Article 1 Section 1 of the US Constitution and Amendment 10 of the US Constitution. The authority for defining the Federal Poverty Line is codified in US Code Title 42, Chapter 106, Subsection 9902, Clause (2). The poverty level is  published each year  by the Department of Health and Human Services on their website and also on the Federal Register.

In 2011, we explored living in poverty and decided that for a single individual, the poverty level should be around $20,000 a year or $1,666 a month. This adds up to $80k for a family of four or four roommates mortgaging a house together which seems reasonable. So as a side note, we feel this needs to be increased. $1,666 a month is $9.60 per hour working full time.

Lifeline’s eligibility is 135% of the Federal Poverty level so if you make $17,226 or less then you are eligible for a free cell phone, which is known as the “Bama Phone” even though lifeline has been around long before President Obama was in office. I called Cingular Wireless on the East Coast to confirm these levels and they said if you meet the requirements, you can apply but they don’t advertise the program. I checked South Dakota’s eligibility requirements and they provide $9.25 in phone assistance

California, sets the eligibility requirements for lifeline, which is a federal program, at $27,500 so with their $15 an hour minimum wage, you would be eligible for a lifeline phone as long as you worked 35 hours or less per week and lived with roommates where each roommate functioned as an “independent economic unit”. This is an outrage and a violation of Article 1 Section 1 of the US Constitution and Amendment 10 of the US Constitution. It is also a violation of US Code Title 42, Chapter 106, Subsection 9902 which allows states to set the Poverty Line at 125% of the Federal Poverty Line for certain programs. California sets it at 162% for the lifeline program. Once you have the phone, as long as you use the phone 5 minutes per month, the phone will remain active for up to 1 year.

Further information on the Lifeline program can be found on the FCC website here:

Info for low income consumers
Lifeline program updates

California appears to be using the lifeline program to obtain unauthorized funds for its sanctuary policies. Cell phones are readily available outside the General Relief offices and you can get new phones each month by switching providers. One of the providers I trialed was Safelink Wireless which provided decent service. Free phone, free service, 3GB of data on top of my $200 of food stamps, $200 of cash; $500 deposit for a craigslist bedroom and up to $450 a month in free rent provided by the General Relief Office.

The least expensive cell phone providers I found charge $25 per month or less for unlimited talk/text and 3 GB of data. This is a few hours worth of work per month to keep your cell phone turned on. I personally feel the requirements should be more stringent. The free cell phone service should be provided to those recently released from jail, those exiting a homeless shelter to independent living and the elderly who may be living on SSI. For those “down on their luck”, perhaps a 90 day subsidy can be provided that has to be paid back when they start working.

Essentially, if you are an able bodied adult, you should have no problem paying $25 a month cell phone bill.