Low-income Mainers offered discounted phone services

By Ryan McLaughlin, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 08, 2011, at 10:22 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Public Utilities Commission, in conjunction with the nationally organized Lifeline Awareness Week, is offering discounts to low-income residents to ensure access to basic local telephone service.

The service provides residents a chance to receive and retain access to local emergency services and community resources.

“No Mainer should be without telephone service because they can’t afford it,” said PUC Chairman Thomas Welch. “If customers need help paying for their telephone services, there is help. The commission wants all Mainers to stay connected, including those who need phone service but can’t afford it.”

Under Maine’s Lifeline program, customers who participate in certain public assistance programs are entitled to receive a basic telephone service discount of up to $13.50 per month. The Link-Up program provides a 50 percent reduction in the telephone service installation charge, up to a maximum of $30, for qualifying households that do not have telephone service.

The SafeLink program provides similar assistance for Mainers who choose to use a cellphone instead of a land line. SafeLink offers free cell phones and plans with free prepaid calling minutes.

To qualify for either of these programs, a customer or member of the customer’s household must qualify for one of the following services: food stamps; Supplemental Social Security Income; Medicaid, including expanded Maine Medicaid; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Emergency Assistance Program; or the Home Energy Assistance Program.

To enroll in the Lifeline or Link-Up programs, customers should contact their telephone company. Those who prefer to enroll in the SafeLink program should call 800-977-3768 or visit www.safelinkwireless.com.

In addition to the aforementioned offers, Sprint is offering a free phone service program for low-income Mainers.

The program, Assurance Wireless, provides customers a free cellphone and 250 minutes of monthly service to accommodate low-income residents, according to a release sent out Thursday by Jack Pflanz, Sprint public relations manager.

Eligible residents can apply for Assurance Wireless by calling 800-395-2171.

People who don’t quite qualify for Assurance Wireless but who nevertheless are struggling financially may be able to take advantage of Virgin Mobile’s payLo program, which offers plans for as little as $20 a month for 400 minutes or 90 days of service for $20 at a rate of 20 cents per minute. This program is available at more than 40,000 retail stores nationwide, including Best Buy, Target and Radio Shack. More information also is available online at: http://www.virginmobileusa.com/cell-phone-plans/paylo-plans.jsp#

CORRECTION:

There was an error in an early version of this article. There are no low-income qualifications required to participate in Virgin Mobile’s payLo program.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/09/08/news/state/low-income-mainers-offered-discounted-phone-services/ printed on August 20, 2014