Programs can cut phone bills

BOONEVILLE – Low-income people have a chance to save about $15 on their monthly phone bills if only they’ll sign up, says Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley.
Presley and his staff were set up Thursday week in Guntown and Booneville to receive applications for Lifeline and Link-Up assistance programs.
Although turnout wasn’t what he had hoped for, Presley continues to push the value of the program, which gives telephone customers a discount of up to $13.50 per month on either their home telephone or cell phone bill.
They also do not have to pay the universal service fund charge that appears on most phone bills.
“It’s the most underutilized program in the state to help low-income consumers,” Presley said. “Only about 15 to 20 percent of people who are eligible are using it now.”
Some people automatically qualify: those who receive food stamps, are on Medicaid, receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, live in federal public housing, receive Supplemental Security Income, receive assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or have children on the free lunch program.
Those whose income is no more than 135 percent of the poverty level also qualify. The national poverty guideline for a family of one is $10,830 and for a family of four is $22,050.
Though many eligible residents at Booneville Housing Authority didn’t come to find out about the program, Director Rita McKissick said she will keep discussing the program at community meetings and visit some residents personally to explain the program.
“This is a great program for our residents, and we’ll keep trying to get them signed up,” she said.
Part of the problem, Presley said, is that the Federal Communications Commission, which administers the program, does not publicize it enough. That’s why he is scheduled to have several additional sessions in coming weeks in Tupelo, Corinth, Ripley and Blue Mountain.
“There will be a nationwide Lifeline/Link-Up Awareness Week Sept. 14-20 to help publicize this program,” Presley said. “The best thing about it is that it doesn’t take any money away from the state while helping a lot of people. It comes out of the universal service fund collected from telephone consumers around the country.”
Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.

Lifeline/Link-Up telephone bill help
- What: The program gives a discount on home or cell telephone bills monthly to low-income consumers.
- When: Applications are accepted continuously.
- Where: Sign-up events are scheduled for Tupelo on Thursday; Corinth on Aug. 24 and Ripley and Blue Mountain, both on Aug. 26.
- For more information: Northern District Public Service Commission, (800) 637-7722 or (800) 356-6428

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal