By CARLIE KOLLATH / NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Federal assistance is available to help pay residential phone bills, but only a small fraction of qualified Mississippians use the program.
Brandon Presley, the public service commissioner for the Northern District of Mississippi, was in Tupelo on Monday to raise awareness of the Lifeline program, which pays up to $13.50 per month for cell phone and landline phone bills.
The program pays up to $162 per year per person.
“This program helps a lot of people pay their phone bill,” he said at a meeting at City Hall. “We know every dollar counts in this economy.”
Presley estimates only 15 percent to 20 percent of Mississippians who qualify for the program use it. On Monday, he said he thinks the participation rate is low because people don’t know about Lifeline.
To qualify, people must get federal assistance from any of these programs: food stamps, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Supplemental Security Income, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or the National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Initiative
This year, Presley said, Lifeline has been extended to help people with low to moderate income levels, a move he thinks will help unemployed people and senior citizens with fixed incomes.
The maximum annual income to qualify depends on the number of people in a household. For example, a one-person household will qualify if it has an annual income of $14,621 or less and a four-person household qualifies if it makes $29,768 or less annually.
The program is paid for by the Universal Service Fund, which is supported through universal service charges on many phone users’ bills.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.