Is the US government giving out free cell phones?

Low income individuals of any adult age can obtain a free cell phone (with 250 free minutes) through the Federal Lifeline Assistance program.

A Few Tips About The Lifeline Program

It is important to know that the federal landline benefit is capped at $9.25 a month, but some states go a few dollars higher. The cell phones on the other hand are truly free.

Here are some tips concerning the use of the lifeline phone service:

  • The user will be the one to activate the phone when it arrives. The phone comes in a small box with easy to follow directions on how to activate the new phone.
  • The phone comes with a charger so you do not need to purchase additional accessories.
  • One call per month is necessary to keep the service active.
  • Customer service has long waits sometimes and the connections to the agents suffer from sporadic call drops.
  • Carriers can be switched at any time.
  • A lost or stolen phone can be replaced.
  • The phone simply stops connecting after 250 minutes every month unless more minutes are purchased.

How To Qualify For A Free Cell Phone or Landline With Service

To qualify, households are either beneficiaries of certain federal assistance programs like the food stamp program (SNAP), Medicaid or Head Start and others, or their income cannot exceed the Federal poverty guidelines by 135%.

The Federal poverty guidelines, updated for 2018 are available HERE along with more information on the Lifeline Assistance Program, contact numbers, application links and so forth.


Yes, below is but one example of the advertising for Federally (tax payer) funded cell phones. It would seem that such phones are also referred to as "Obama phones" in many areas, with more then one phone being given out to the eligible party.

"Assurance Wireless is a federal Lifeline Assistance program brought to you by Virgin Mobile. Lifeline is a government benefit program supported by the federal Universal Service Fund. Enrollment is available to individuals who qualify based on federal or state-specific eligibility criteria. The Lifeline Assistance program is available for only one wireless or wireline account per household.

New customers who qualify for Lifeline Assistance will receive a FREE phone, 500 FREE minutes for the first 4 months and Unlimited FREE text messages each month. After 4 months, you get 250 FREE Voice Minutes each month. You will continue to receive UNLIMITED FREE texts each month for as long as you are eligible."
Yes. This part is true. They fund low end cell phones plans, and offset some of the cost of landline phones. The programs that authorize the phone distribution program are called Lifeline Assistance and Lifeline Link-Up. Lifeline Assistance helps pay monthly phone bills and Lifeline Link-Up helps pay the initial outlay for the phone and installation. The two programs are often lumped together and simply called Lifeline.
These Lifeline cell phones are delivered through relatively new, government-approved cell phone companies like Safelink Wireless, Assurance Wireless and Reachout Wireless, among others. These companies were spun of off larger prepaid cell phone companies to specialize in the Lifeline program.

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