Lifeline Program: Too Much Red Tape?

Last week we told you about the Lifeline program, giving low-income customers a break on their phone bills. Since then we've heard your complaints about the government program, telling us you can’t get hooked up because there is too much red tape.

Viewer Christie Fox sent a letter to the state attorney general’s office after she saw our story about Lifeline. She receives food stamps, which should make her automatically eligible for the $13.50 monthly credit on her phone bill. But Christie says Verizon wanted proof from her doctor that she was eligible. She says the company said they’d send her an application which she had to send back with a copy of her food stamps ID card, and she’d have to reapply each year. We showed her letter to Jack Shreve with the attorney general’s office. He’s concerned that people feel they have to jump through hoops to get into the Lifeline program.

Shreve said, "We want to make it as easy as possible to sign up and that’s really what we want to do, because we need to accomplish getting as many people and as big a percentage as we can on the program to save them and the state of Florida money."

Verizon denies it’s a money thing. A Verizon spokesman says it and the other phone companies have been holding publicity events like this one all over the state to let people know about Lifeline and get them hooked up. Verizon is now looking into Christie Fox’s concerns. In the meantime, millions of dollars of phone credits people like her have a right to are going unused.

Verizon spokesman Bob Elek told us the phone companies have greatly simplified participation in Lifeline these days.

You don’t have to prove eligibility when you apply for Lifeline, just once a year when you renew.

Verizon says it added more than 500 lifeline customers in the month of September alone.