Who qualifies for an Obama Phone?

Not everyone qualifies for the Lifeline Assistance Obama Phone program. However, if you’re struggling financially, if you already participate in another state or federal assistance program, or if your income is low enough, you may be one of the fortunate ones who do.

It’s relatively quick and simple to determine if you are eligible for a free government cell phone and 250, 1000 or even unlimited monthly minutes and texts.

Please allow us to clear up one confusing issue. Although the Obama Phone program is sponsored by the federal government, it is regulated by the various state governments. That means the eligibility requirements are very similar — but not identical — from state-to-state. The companies offering the free phones, free minutes and free texts also vary from state-to-state as do the number of minutes and texts they may offer.

For example, you will be eligible in every state if you currently participate in federal assistance programs such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, Supplemental Security Income. But in some statES you’ll also be eligible if you participate in certain state assistance programs (such as GAIN or CalWORKS in California, OK Sales Tax Relief or Head Start on tribal lands in Oklahoma, or MassHealth in Massachusetts). If you don’t qualify under any of the programs shown below, check with you state to see if it offers additional eligibility options.

Each state also determines the income level at which you will be eligible. For example, in most states, maximum allowable total household income is set at 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. But in other states, it is set at 150%. Believe it or not, an Hawaiian couple with six children can earn as much as $62,249 and still be eligible for an Obama Phone.

Get an Obama Phone because you participate in one of these federal or state assistance programs

Most people qualify for a Lifeline Assistance Obama Phone cell because they participate in a federal or state assistance program. Here is a brief description of the federal assistance programs found in every state. For more information or to find out if you qualify for one of these programs, just click on the name of the program.

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP) The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously called food stamps, provides financial assistance to low-income families and individuals to help with the high cost of groceries. It allows them to buy food at grocery stores, convenience stores, some farmers’ markets and some co-op food programs. (click here)
  • Medicaid Medicaid, which began in 1965, is a government program designed to provide health care services to low income families and the elderly. Each state administers its own Medicaid program, but the federal government requires all states to cover certain mandatory health services. (click here)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federally funded program that is designed to provide income assistance to disabled individuals, disabled children and low-income elderly. (click here)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8) The Housing Choice Vouchers program, commonly called Section 8, is a federally funded program that provides financial assistance for housing needs while still allowing families to choose where they live. It is available for low-income individuals and families, the elderly and the disabled. (click here)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivor’s Benefit The Veterans Administration helps struggling low-income war veterans and their families by providing them with tax-free monetary benefits. (Click here)
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) General Assistance program provides assistance to federally recognized American Indians and Alaska native tribe members. It is designed to provide cash to participants which is to be used to meet the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, utilities and in some cases burial assistance. (click here)
  • Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF) Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, also called TTANF, is a federally-funded assistance program that is almost identical to the standard Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The main difference is that it is available only to individuals who are members of a federally-recognized tribe, are American Indians or are Alaska Natives. (click here)
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) provides healthy foods to low income families and elderly who live on Indian reservations or who reside in designated areas near reservations in the State of Oklahoma. (Click here)
  • Tribal Head Start (only those households meeting its income qualifying standard). Tribal Head Start is a comprehensive program for low-income children and families living on Native American lands. It offers early childhood classes, nutrition services, family support services, transportation, health services, mental health services, and disability services for Native children from age three to age five. (Click here)

Get an Obama Phone because your total household income is low enough

You can qualify for an Obama Phone even if you do not participate in any of the government assistance programs discussed above — if your total household income is low enough.

Qualifying via total household income is a bit more complicated than qualifying by participating in other assistance programs — because you will be required to provide more documentation in order to prove your eligibility — but if that is your situation, we urge you to follow this route.

For more information on permissible income levels and other program rules in your state, click here.