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Assistance available wtih phone bills through Lifeline

(Radio Iowa) – The Iowa Utilities Board is reminding Iowans that financial support is available for some who may have trouble affording telephone service.

Utilities Board chair Elizabeth Jacobs says its a nationwide program through the Federal Communications Commission. “That is targeted to low-income Americans, trying to make sure that they stay connected with some sort of local telephone service. It provides for local recipients a nine-dollar and 25-cent a month adjustment to their local telephone bills if they qualify,” Jacobs says.

The service is called “Lifeline” because it allows for a connection that is important to the person’s life. “It doesn’t cover long-distance service, it doesn’t cover the opportunity to surf the internet, it really is the idea — think of the elderly who need access to talking to family or public safety — that’s the concept behind the program,” Jacobs explains.

You must fill out an application to be eligible for the service. She says there is very good scrutiny of the service and you must be at 135-percent or less of the federal poverty level. If you are eligible for other programs such as food stamps, special housing, you may be eligible.

Jacobs says the best way to sign up is to contact your local phone company. “They can get an application, they can find out if their provider is a participant and then they can fill out the application form,” Jacobs says. “There’s scrutiny, you can only apply and have one device — so you can’t have both a landline and a wireless — it’s one or the other. And they must reapply every year based on the eligibility requirements.”

Iowa is joining with regulators in other states to publicize the program during National Lifeline Awareness Week, which runs today (September 9th) through September 15th. Information on the program is also available at:www.lifelinesupport.org.