Free cell phone program: How you can qualify - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Free cell phone program: How you can qualify

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's something most of us just take for granted. Having that cell phone available whenever we need it, but for those who can't afford it, Assurance Wireless could be the answer to your call.

Assurance Wireless, who's owned by Virgin Mobile, announced their new Free cell phone program in 21 states on Friday.

In South Carolina, if you're currently enrolled in Medicaid, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program or use food stamps, you automatically qualify for this service.

"For people that are looking for jobs, and don't have jobs and don't have cell phones, I mean you can fill out a lot of applications, you might get a call, but how can you get a call if you don't have a phone," says Daniel Greene.

Too clear up some of the muddy water, it's not a government subsidized program, but as we all know, the funding for this has to come from somewhere. And depending on your cell phone provider, it could be you and I.

But then there's the question of who's paying for it all? Depending on your cell phone provider, they can charge you up to about $2 every month. I checked my latest Verizon bill and sure enough, there was a Universal Service Fund Charge for a $1.34.

"I didn't know until I just met you that this money was being allocated for that purpose, so if it's being clarified I don't think it's a problem," says Kimberly Lewis.

Back in the 1980's, during President Ronald Reagan's administration, he initiated the Lifeline Assistance Program that helped those in need get land lines installed. As our society has evolved into a mobile society, that program transitioned into this cell phone service program. Essentially, all telecommunication companies pay into the Universal Service Fund to fund these programs and they can in turn pass that charge onto you.

While many people are overall in favor of the program, even if that means coughing up a few bucks each month, they are worried of people taking advantage of the situation.

"There should be strict eligibility rules, who actually don't already have an I-phone they're paying on anyways and they get that free phone. It should be that they don't already have a phone of their own, and they're already paying a bill and they're just run up those extra 250 minutes to talk to whoever," says Edward Dawsey.

North Carolina was one of the first four states that Assurance brought this program to in 2009. Now, that's grown into 21 states. It's important to know that the eligibility requirements in the Carolinas are slightly different. Here's the difference.

South Carolina:

  • Food Stamps
  • Medicaid Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
  • Medicaid

North Carolina:

  • Medicaid Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
  • Food Stamps/SNAP Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • (Not the same as Social Security Benefits) The National School Lunch Program's Free Lunch Program

In North Carolina residents can qualify by income.

Calculate TOTAL household income by reporting the income of all adult persons residing in your home in the appropriate category:

a) Prior year's State or Federal income tax return OR

b) Most recent type of current statement from the income source(s) noted below:

c) Three consecutive months' worth of your most current pay stubs

d) Social Security benefits statement

e) Veterans Administration benefits statement

f) Retirement/Pension benefits statement

g) Divorce decree or child support document

h) Unemployment/Workers Compensation benefits statement

 

To apply for the program with Assurance Wireless, you can Call 1-800-395-2171 or print out an application from their website: http://www.assurancewireless.com/Public/Welcome.aspx

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