Are you a food stamp recipient but can’t afford a good phone? This post is for you because we are about to show you how to qualify for a free phone with Food Stamps, now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The process involves enrolling in the Lifeline Assistance program or other social benefits programs and applying for a free or government-subsidized phone from participating telecommunication companies.
In addition to qualifying for a free government phone, eligible households can enjoy internet services and unlimited talk and text, all for free!
Exactly how do you get a free phone with food stamps or SNAP benefits? Can you qualify for a free or discounted government phone if you are not a Lifeline recipient? Read on to discover answers to these questions and more.
What Is the Connection Between Lifeline and Food Stamps?
For most people, smartphones provide an all-day connection to nearly every aspect of life. From staying in touch with family and friends to surfing the internet for opportunities and everything in between ― smartphones are indispensable in today’s world.
However, not everyone can afford a good phone. In fact, data from the United States Census Bureau shows that about 37.9 million Americans lived below the poverty line in 2021. This means around 11.6% of the population can’t make ends meet, let alone afford a phone and broadband service.
The good news is that the US government created an assistance program through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help low income families access discounted or free cell phone service. This program is known as the Lifeline Assistance program (commonly referred to as an “Obama phone” because it was popularized during President Barack Obama’s administration).
But since phones don’t fall under SNAP-eligible purchases, how do you get a phone using food stamps? What exactly is the connection between the Lifeline benefit program and food stamps?
Being a SNAP recipient can qualify you for a government-subsidized or free cell phone through the Lifeline Assistance program. In other words, you don’t have to trade your SNAP benefits or food stamps for a free cell phone; neither do you have to choose between having a phone and eating nutritious foods.
Participating in the Lifeline benefit program may be all you need to stay connected to the world around you via a free government phone.
How to Qualify for Food Stamp/SNAP and Get a Free Phone
SNAP eligibility is usually based on income level, meaning your gross and net incomes must meet certain limits.
Eligibility requirements vary between states, but the general income limits for households are as follows:
- Your gross income must not exceed 130% of the federal poverty line (this requirement usually doesn’t apply to households with elderly or disabled persons).
- Your net income must not exceed 100% of the federal poverty line.
- Your cash at hand, money in the bank, and other countable resources must not be more than $2,750 (or $4,250 for households with a disabled or elderly person aged 60 and above).
Don’t worry about your countable resources or assets, as not all of them are considered when determining SNAP eligibility. For example, SNAP does not count landed properties (a home or lot), most pension plans and retirement benefits, and resources from Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Required Documents for SNAP
Like other government programs, you need to submit certain documents for verification and fill out some paperwork during the SNAP application process. You can conveniently complete the process online or visit your local Food Stamp office if you need help.
Although SNAP is a federal program, it is administered by each state, meaning specific documentation may vary between states. However, the common documents required to enroll in the program include the following:
- Proof of identity and age (driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, or state-issued ID)
- Proof of social security number (social security card)
- Proof of citizenship or immigration status (US passport, permanent resident card, military records)
- Proof of income (pay stubs, bank statements, self-employment bookkeeping records, agency letter showing unearned income)
- If you are over 60 or disabled, you might be required to present your proof of medical expenses
- Child care expenses, where applicable
How to Apply for Food Stamp/SNAP
Applying for SNAP benefits is straightforward, and the process can be completed online, provided you have all the necessary documents ready. You will be required to answer a few questions about your household to determine eligibility.
SNAP has a state directory to make things easier to apply in each state. Simply use the state directory to access your state’s SNAP website, phone number, online application form, and Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) information.
If your state isn’t listed in the SNAP directory on the web, you should visit your local Food Stamp office to fill out an application form.
Other Ways to Qualify for a Free Government Phone
If you don’t qualify for a free phone with Food Stamps, you might be eligible by participating in any government assistance program, such as:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
You may also qualify for a free government phone if you are a recipient of other state-specific assistance programs in the state you live in.
Make the Most of Food Stamps by Enrolling in ACP
In addition to getting a free government smartphone with food stamps, you can get more assistance to enjoy broadband internet service for surfing the internet.
This is possible through a new government-sponsored program known as the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The government assistance program is designed to help low income families in the US pay for internet-connected devices and broadband services.
Like the Lifeline Assistance Program, you must sign up with an ACP participating company to get all the benefits of the cell phone wireless service, such as:
- Free unlimited monthly data
- Free access to hotspot data
- Free unlimited monthly talk and text
- Free voicemail
- Caller ID and call waiting
How to Apply for ACP
You can apply for ACP by completing an online application process. Fill out the form to start the enrollment process. Alternatively, get in touch with a participating internet company in your area to learn how to sign up.
Note that you don’t need to apply for ACP afresh if you are already a Lifeline service subscriber. You only need to contact your internet service company or phone provider to enroll you in the program.
You may also be eligible for ACP, even if you don’t qualify for Lifeline. The two ways you may qualify for ACP without Lifeline are:
- Having a household income less than or at 200% of the federal poverty guideline.
- Participating in benefits programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the National School Free Lunch Program (NSLP), and Pell Grant.
Here’s what all of this means.
If you are from a low income household, you can qualify for a free phone with food stamps by enrolling in the Lifeline Assistance program.
And if you combine Lifeline with ACP, you can receive monthly free talk, text, and data through government phone providers. Government assistance doesn’t get any better as far as telecommunication goes!