The $2 billion a year Lifeline program has handed out more than 13 million free cellphone plans across the country in the first six months of this year. In Colorado, the program handed out more than 117,000 free cellphone plans in the first half of this year, or about 20,000 cellphones every month.
The free phones and their wireless plans are paid for by a monthly tax on your cellphone, called the Universal Service Tax. Although the Lifeline wireless program has been around since 2005 and started under president George W. Bush, it has exploded under President Obama’s administration and the phones are often referred to as “Obamaphones.”
The program has strict guidelines. To qualify, you have to be on food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance or some other government program to prove that you are low-income. The idea is that people who could not otherwise afford mobile phones would have them to help look for jobs, call 911 in an emergency or stay in touch with family members.
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