In the previous article, the benefits of the Lifeline Assistance program was discussed. Despite the benefits that the Lifeline program provides, misconceptions about it have led some people to see it in a negative light. These myths usually focus on how the program is funded and what benefits low-income households receive from it. In order to clear up some of the confusion about Lifeline, here are some of the most common misconceptions about it, along with the facts that disprove these myths.
The Obama Phone Myth
This misconception received a lot of attention during President Obama’s first term, and it continues to spread during his second term. The Obama phone myth claims that the Obama administration gives people on welfare free cell phones through the Lifeline program. This is false for three reasons:
The Lifeline program started in 1984 under the Reagan administration. Discounts on prepaid wireless plans were added to the program in 2005 during the Bush administration. In 2008, also under the Bush administration, eligible households were able to start choosing between receiving discounts on one landline or wireless phone service.
While eligible households can receive a free cell phone, this service is provided by cellular service providers, not the government. Cellular service providers are not required to provide free phones, but they can choose to do so. Q Link Wireless is one example of a Lifeline service provider that does provide a free cell phone to use with the free cell phone service.
The Lifeline program is not just for those who receive welfare benefits. Those who meet their state’s low-income requirements or are enrolled in one or more government assistance programs, such as Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps), also qualify.
The Taxpayer Funding Myth
Another common myth about the Lifeline program is that it is funded by taxpayers. In reality, no federal money goes toward the funding the Lifeline program. Telecommunications companies provide the funding for this program by having their customers pay a Universal Service fee on their monthly bill.
The Federal Deficit Myth
This myth is tied into the taxpayer funding myth. It claims that the Lifeline program is adding to the federal deficit and wasting taxpayers’ money. How much of an effect does Lifeline have on the deficit?
As Issa Asad, CEO of Quadrant Holdings and QLink Wireless in Dania, Florida, explains, “Lifeline is actually more likely to reduce the deficit, rather than add to it. The program makes it possible for low-income individuals to find jobs, so they won’t have to continue relying on public assistance programs. That helps reduce the amount the government spends on those programs.”
Asad would also like the public to keep in mind that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) instituted reforms in 2012 that help control the amount of money spent on the Lifeline program.
The Rampant Fraud Myth
Some people believe that the Lifeline wireless program is filled with a high number of cases involving fraud or abuse. In actuality, the FCC has adopted strict measures for reducing the misuse of this program. Eligible households are only allowed to get benefits for one phone service at a time. The FCC’s 2012 reforms included the creation of a database to cut down on duplicate benefits and more frequently use fully automated eligibility databases to make it harder for people to commit fraud.
The Lifeline program should not be viewed as a wasteful or unnecessary program. It has made a significant and positive difference in the lives of millions of low-income Americans. In the next segment, we’ll provide examples of how this program has helped those in need.
Above content provided by Q Link Wireless, LLC, a subsidiary of Quadrant Holdings, LLC, located in Dania, Florida.