Millions of supposed low-income Americans who claimed free phones from the federal government are actually ineligible to receive the service, according to the Wall Street Journal. Worse still, you’re probably paying for it.
A recent Federal Communications Commission review of top five cell service carriers who use the program, called Lifeline, has revealed that 41 percent of six million free phone owners either couldn’t prove their eligibility or didn’t respond to the review request.
As the WSJ reported, the federal government spent about $2.2 billion on Lifeline in 2012, up from $819 million in 2008. But where does the government get that money? From your phone bill. Each household in the U.S. pays approximately $2.50 a month to fund Lifeline and other subsidized communications programs, according to the WSJ.
Lifeline was started in 1984 in order to give low-income people access to their families, job opportunities and emergency services. Only people who are in poverty according to federal guidelines — or are on Medicaid, food stamps or other government assistance — are eligible for the phones. The program is also limited to one phone per household.
Until the FCC tightened its rules on certification for the phones last year, those claiming the phones could self-verify their eligibility with the service carriers.
The FCC is continuing to investigate the Lifeline providers who supposedly allowed ineligible people to access the free phones.