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Federal Lifeline Frequently Asked Questions

Why was my application or renewal denied?

If you received a letter denying your participation in federal Lifeline, there are many possible reasons for your disqualification. The most common reason is an applicant did not complete and submit the Application Form before the due date. So please remember to meet the due date.

Here are some other possible reasons for a denial:

  • The applicant does not return the form or register online before the due date.
  • The form is incomplete.
  • The applicant does not meet the eligibility rules.
  • The form is incorrect (and is not considered correctible).
  • The applicant did not provide the appropriate documentation to prove eligibility.
  • The applicant was claimed on someone else’s income tax return as a dependent.
  • The applicant was already receiving the federal Lifeline discounts, and was not eligible for a second phone line with the federal Lifeline discounts.
  • The form did not have the applicant’s signature.

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What can I do if my application or renewal is denied?

If your disqualification can be corrected, you will be given a chance to correct it.

If you believe you have been disqualified improperly, you may file a written appeal. No verbal appeal will be accepted. Your appeal must be received by the due date stated on your disqualification letter to be considered. Your appeal must include the following:

  • A copy of your disqualification letter
  • A brief description of your complaint - Please limit your appeal to two pages or less. You can also use the back of your disqualification letter to write down your appeal; and
  • Any supporting document(s) to prove your eligibility.

Your appeal may be faxed to (415) 703-1158 or mailed to:

  • California Public Utilities Commission
  • Consumer Affairs Branch
  • 505 Van Ness Ave
  • San Francisco, CA 94102

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I lost my form, how can I get a new one?

Please Contact Us and press # to request a reprint of your form. Remember, you only have 45 days from the date of the original form to return your completed form. Your form will be mailed to you only if it is within the 45 day period given to you to submit the form.

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I lost or forgot my Personal Identification Number (PIN), how can I find out what it is?

Please Contact Us to get your PIN number. We are available Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. except during state holidays.

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I want to know my application’s status, how can I find out about it?

Please Contact Us to find out about your application’s status. We are available Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. except during state holidays and weekends.

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How can I submit a complaint about my experience with federal Lifeline?

You can file a complaint online with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) at http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/puc/cec/e_complaint/.

You can also mail the complaint to the CPUC at:

  • California Public Utilities Commission
  • Consumer Affairs Branch
  • 505 Van Ness Ave
  • San Francisco, CA 94102

The CPUC's Consumer Affairs Branch can only act on a complaint if there is written documentation about the complaint.

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How much can I save on my monthly phone bill?

If you qualify for federal Lifeline, you will receive a monthly discount of up to $10 on your phone service.

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Who qualifies for the federal Lifeline discounts?

Consumers who meet the eligibility rules can qualify for the discounts. There are two ways to qualify, Program-Based OR Income-Based. Check out the details in Eligibility Requirements.

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Are there any restrictions for being on federal Lifeline?

Yes, there are rules stating who can qualify for federal Lifeline. Check out the details in Eligibility Requirements to learn if you and your household qualify.

Only one discount per household is allowed. Therefore, if multiple people have wireless telephones in a home, the discount can only be for one of these phones. Additionally, if there are wireless telephone(s) and traditional, wireline telephone(s) in a home, the discount can either be for one of the wireless telephones or one of the traditional, wireline telephone lines.

The applicant cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s income tax returns.

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Are there any additional benefits if I live in a federally recognized tribal land?

Yes, there are additional benefits if your household is located on federally recognized tribal land through the federal government’s Enhanced Lifeline program. You can receive basic local home phone service for $1.00 per month plus a one-time discount of up to $100 on the service installation fee. For more information, visit:

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How do I apply to be on federal Lifeline and receive the discounts?

Go to the Application Instructions to learn how it works.

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What do I need to mail in with my federal Lifeline Application Form?

You need to mail in your completed, signed, application form and your elgibility documentation.

However, if you are applying to participate in federal Lifeline via Income-Based, you must provide documents proving that your total annual household gross income is at or below the annual income limits. To learn what the annual income limits are check out the details in Eligibility Requirements. Household income includes all incomes received by everyone in your household, whether taxable or non-taxable, including, but not limited to: wages, salaries, interest, dividends, spousal support and child support, grants, gifts, allowances, stipends, public-assistance payments, social security and pensions, rental income, income from self-employment and cash payments from other sources, and all employment-related, non-cash income.

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How do I continue to receive the federal Lifeline benefits and remain on the program?

In California, the California LifeLine Administrator administers both the California LifeLine Program and the federal Lifeline Program. If you would like to know how the California LifeLine Program and federal Lifeline Program differ, check out the Discounts Comparison Chart.

The California LifeLine Administrator will automatically send you a Renewal Form prior to your anniversary date. In California, the California LifeLine Administrator administers both the California LifeLine Program and the federal Lifeline Program. If you would like to know how the California LifeLine Program and federal Lifeline Program differ, check out the Discounts Comparison Chart.

You can remain on federal Lifeline by making sure you fill out and submit the Renewal Form before the due date. If you would like to continue your participation in federal Lifeline after your anniversary date, you can Renew Online with the use of your Personal Identification Number (PIN) found on your Renewal Form or return your completed and signed Renewal Form to:

  • California LifeLine Administrator
  • P.O. Box 8417
  • Westminster, CA 92684-8417

If you did not get the annual Renewal Form, please Contact Us so we can arrange for you to receive it.

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If I change telephone companies, can I still get the federal Lifeline discounts?

Yes, you can remain on federal Lifeline and keep getting the discounts even if you change telephone companies. You have 30 days from when you disconnect your phone service from your existing phone company to let your new preferred telephone company know that you would like to keep your federal Lifeline discounts. The California LifeLine Administrator will simply transfer your federal Lifeline discount to the new telephone company. In California, the California LifeLine Administrator administers both the California LifeLine Program and the federal Lifeline Program. If you would like to know how the California LifeLine Program and federal Lifeline Program differ, check out the Discounts Comparison Chart.

Please make sure that you actually cancel your phone service with your existing telephone company.

If you do not inform your new telephone company that you have been receiving the federal Lifeline discount within the 30-day timeframe, you will have to submit a new application.

Only one discount per household address is allowed. Therefore, if multiple people have wireless telephones in a home, the discount can only be for one of these phones. Additionally, if there are wireless telephone(s) and traditional, wireline telephone(s) in a home, the discount can either be for one of the wireless telephones or one of the traditional, wireline telephone lines.

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When will I receive the federal Lifeline benefits?

You will receive the federal Lifeline benefits once the California LifeLine Administrator has approved your application. In California, the California LifeLine Administrator administers both the California LifeLine Program and the federal Lifeline Program. If you would like to know how the California LifeLine Program and federal Lifeline Program differ, check out the Discounts Comparison Chart.

New applicants for the federal Lifeline Program must be approved before the federal Lifeline discounts are received.

After submitting the Application Form and any required documents, the California LifeLine Administrator must determine whether the applicant completed the form correctly and completely, and submitted the required documents. The Administrator must also find out if the applicant is eligible for the program based on his/her responses in the Application Form.

Once you are approved to receive the federal Lifeline discounts, you will be on federal Lifeline as of the date your service began or the date you requested to be enrolled, whichever is later. The discounts will be applied directly to your account.

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Are there any payment plan options available for me to spread the up-front costs of setting up my phone service?

Yes, there will be interest-free payment plans for you to take advantage of. Please remember to ask the telephone company to put you on an interest-free payment plan if you need help with the payments. This will spread out your payments in more manageable amounts while you wait to be approved for federal Lifeline.

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Will the federal Lifeline discounts be automatically applied as soon as I call my telephone company to begin the application process?

No, you will have to wait for the California LifeLine Administrator to approve your application to participate in the program. In California, the California LifeLine Administrator administers both the California LifeLine Program and the federal Lifeline Program. If you would like to know how the California LifeLine Program and federal Lifeline Program differ, check out the Discounts Comparison Chart.

The Administrator will send you a letter confirming your enrollment if you are approved. After your application is approved, you will then begin to receive and see the discounts on your telephone bill.

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Will I get the money back I spent while waiting for my federal Lifeline discounts?

Yes, but only once your application is approved. You will be refunded the difference between the regular rates and the federal Lifeline discounted rates for any applicable monthly service charges, service installation/activation fee, and deposits for phone service.

The refund will be a credit on your next phone bill for the regular rates you paid and any applicable monthly service charges, service installation/activation fee, and deposits for your phone service. If you have a net credit balance of at least $10.00, you may request a refund check from your telephone company. Otherwise, the refund will appear as a credit on your account.

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How will I get the money back I spent while waiting for my federal Lifeline discounts?

The refund will be a credit on your next phone bill for the regular rates you paid and any applicable monthly service charges, service installation/activation fee, and deposits for your phone service. If you have a net credit balance of at least $10.00, you may request a refund check from your telephone company. Otherwise, the refund will appear as a credit on your account.

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Once I start getting the federal Lifeline discounts, will I always receive them on my phone bill?

The federal Lifeline discounts are only good for one year unless you renew your participation. You must renew your participation each year. The California LifeLine Administrator will contact you when you need to renew your participation in federal Lifeline. In California, the California LifeLine Administrator administers both the California LifeLine Program and the federal Lifeline Program. If you would like to know how the California LifeLine Program and federal Lifeline Program differ, check out the Discounts Comparison Chart.

If you do not renew your participation you will be removed from the program and no longer receive the monthly discount on your phone bill.

If you did not get the annual Renewal Form, please Contact Us so we can arrange for you to receive it.

Your federal Lifeline discounts can also be discontinued when you no longer meet the eligibility requirements or if your Renewal Form is not received within 30 days from the date it was sent to your household. If you do not return the completed and signed Renewal Form, or if you are determined as ineligible, your telephone company will remove you from the program along with your federal Lifeline discount on your monthly bill.

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How can I receive letters, forms, and instructions in a language different from what I am already getting?

Please contact your phone company to arrange to receive the letters, forms, and instructions in a different language.

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Are there other ways that can help me save money on my telephone bill?

Check out the California LifeLine Program at www.californialifeline.com or call 866-272-0357 for more information.

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How many discounts can I have?

Only one discount per household is allowed. Households must choose to get the discount either on a home phone or a cell phone, but not on both. Households cannot get the discount from multiple phone companies.

A HOUSEHOLD includes adults and children who are living together at the same address as one economic unit. An economic unit consists of all adults (persons at least 18 years old) contributing to and sharing in the household’s income and expenses.

Multiple discounts are only allowed if there are TTY users or if there are multiple households at the same service address. Individuals who do not follow the one discount per household rule will lose their discount, and may be prosecuted by the U.S. government.

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