The five-member Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has taken steps
to make it easier for low-income Floridians to take advantage of the Link-Up
Florida and Lifeline telephone programs.
The five-member panel has added the National School Lunch Free Lunch
Program as a qualifying criterion for all Florida eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs). The
National School Lunch Free Lunch Program had previously been used as a
qualifying criterion only for BellSouth, Verizon, and Embarq.
The Commission also approved for use by Florida ETCs a simplified
certification process for program-based criteria. The simplified process
allows individuals to enroll by signing a document verifying, under penalty of
perjury, that they participate in one of the qualifying programs. Previously,
ETCs had a variety of other qualifying procedures.
Floridians qualify for the program if they are already enrolled in
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Low-Income Home
Energy Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income and Federal Public
Housing Assistance. If someone lives on federally recognized tribal land,
he/she may qualify for expanded Lifeline assistance. Some Florida
companies will also qualify someone for the program if the customer’s income is
no greater than 135% of the federal poverty level.
Currently, more than 139,000 Floridians
are participating in the Link-Up Florida and Lifeline programs. Link-Up
Florida provides Floridians a 50% reduction on the telephone service hookup
charge up to $30, and Lifeline customers receive a $13.50 credit on their
monthly telephone bill. The funding for the program comes from the customer’s
telephone company and the federal Universal Service Fund, which is paid into by
Florida telephone customers.