Connect to California LifeLine and Save! (2015)

Connect to California LifeLine and Save! (2015)
Connect to California
LifeLine and Save!
Discounted telephone service
can help your family stay in touch
a consumer action publication
California LifeLine provides discounts on basic residential
wireline (traditional landline) or wireless telephone service
to eligible low-income households. Consumers who qualify
for California LifeLine pay a fraction of the regular cost for
telephone connection or activation and monthly service.
What benefits does California LifeLine offer?
California LifeLine offers significant discounts on telephone service. The
final monthly cost to you will depend on whether you choose wireline
(traditional landline) or wireless service and which service plan you
select.
Wireline telephone service
All California service providers providing traditional residential landline
service offer the California LifeLine program.
Customers can qualify in one of two ways:
● By participating in an approved public assistance program
● By meeting the California LifeLine program’s household income
limits
Discounts for landline service under California LifeLine include:
● Service connection discount: For new phone customers, once
approved for California LifeLine you will be credited for all but $10
or half of the California LifeLine service provider’s regular service
connection charge, whichever is lower.
● Discount when you change or convert your existing service to
California LifeLine: You pay: (1) $10, or (2) half of the regular charge
for service connection or the regular conversion charge, whichever is
lower, once you are approved for California LifeLine.
● Monthly service discount: The price for California LifeLine is no
more than 50 percent of the California LifeLine service provider’s
regular rate for measured and flat rate service. Rates vary by service
provider. Flat rate local telephone service allows for unlimited local
calling. Measured local telephone service allows for 60 untimed local
calls per month. Additional local calls (more than 60 per month) cost
8¢ each.
● An extra California LifeLine connection: Qualify for a second
California LifeLine line at the same discount if you or someone in your
household needs a teletypewriter (TTY or TDD device) when using the
telephone.
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● As a California LifeLine customer, you are not assessed the
following surcharges on your telephone service: Federal Universal
Service Fee, California LifeLine Telephone Service, California High
Cost Fund-A, California High Cost Fund-B, California Advanced
Services Fund, California Teleconnect Fund, California Relay Service
and Communications Devices Fund, 911 Emergency System, State
Regulatory Fee, and various state/local taxes. California LifeLine
customers do not have to pay the monthly Federal Subscriber Line
Charge, either.
When you enroll in California LifeLine, you will pay the regular rates
for basic phone service and connection until your California LifeLine
application is approved. (Ask for an interest-free payment plan to help
pay any service connection charges and/or deposit for basic service.)
Once approved, you will receive a bill credit with the California LifeLine
discount retroactive to the date your service began or the date you
applied for California LifeLine, whichever is later. Additionally, any
deposit you paid for basic service will be refunded with a credit on your
bill. If your bill has a net credit balance of $10 or more, you may request
a refund check from your California LifeLine service provider.
Wireless telephone service
Wireless service is now eligible for discounts under both the federal
Lifeline and California LifeLine programs. (It was previously only
discounted under the federal program.) However, service providers
must first apply and be approved by the California Public Utilities
Commission (CPUC) to offer Lifeline-eligible plans in California. Contact
your wireless provider to see if it offers federal and/or state Lifeline.
Discounts for wireless service will depend on the service provider and
service plan you choose, but include:
● Up to $15.00 off of plans that offer between 501 and 999
minutes of calling time per month if the service provider is an
Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC), which would qualify it
for combined state and federal subsidies. If the provider is not an
ETC, your total discount would be $5.75 per month under California
LifeLine alone (no additional federal support of $9.25).
● Up to $21.90 off of plans that offer 1,000 or more minutes per
month if the service provider is an Eligible Telecommunications
Carrier. If the provider is not an ETC, your total discount would be
$12.65 per month under California LifeLine alone.
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A wireless plan must provide a minimum of 501 minutes to be eligible
for a California LifeLine discount. At least one California LifeLine-eligible
plan offered by a participating provider must be available without
requiring bundled video or data service.
Neither federal nor California LifeLine offers a discount on wireless
devices, but some carriers include a free handset with activation or
contract renewal. (Participating carriers cannot require a contract that
lasts longer than two years.) You cannot be charged a restocking fee if
you return your Lifeline program device within three business days of
activation.
You are entitled to free, unlimited access to customer service in the
same language in which the California LifeLine service was originally
sold or marketed.
Eligible for free toll blocking service
Toll blocking prevents you or anyone else from making long distance
or local toll calls from your landline telephone. You can still receive long
distance calls and you can call toll-free numbers. You can place long
distance calls using a prepaid telephone card.
Deposits for basic service waived
As a California LifeLine customer, you do not have to pay a deposit for
basic service. If you are initially charged a deposit when establishing
service and applying for California LifeLine, the deposit will be credited
back to you once you are approved for the program.
What does California LifeLine offer for people
with hearing disabilities?
If your household is eligible for the California LifeLine program and
includes someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and needs a text
telephone device (TTY/TDD) to use the phone, you may qualify for two
telephone lines at California LifeLine rates. With two lines, a hearingimpaired person can communicate through a special relay service.
In order to qualify for two discounted telephone lines, you must meet
the following requirements:
● Your household is eligible for the first California LifeLine line.
● The disabled person in your household has and uses a text
telephone device in the home.
If your TTY/TDD is not issued by the Deaf and Disabled
Telecommunications Program (DDTP), then you must submit a
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medical certificate showing that you or another household member
needs a TTY/TDD to use the telephone. (Make copies to send with the
application. Do not send your originals.)
It is also possible to use a wireless phone-compatible TTY with some
wireless devices. In addition to being digital, the device also must have
a 2.5mm audio or hands-free jack and a TTY mode/option in its menu.
Not all digital cell phones are TTY-compatible. Ask the phone vendor or
service provider about capabilities, or look for the TTY symbol on the
phone’s packaging or in the user manual.
How do I start California LifeLine service?
If you do not already have telephone service but believe you qualify for
California LifeLine, contact either a service provider that provides local
residential service for your area if you want a landline (check the Yellow
Pages directory under “Telecommunications Carriers”) or a wireless
service provider that participates in federal and/or California LifeLine if
you want a cell phone.
The CPUC offers a tool on its website (www.californialifeline.com/
en/provider_search) that enables consumers to search by ZIP code
for California LifeLine service providers (wireline and wireless) that
serve their area. For wireless service, it also lists each provider’s
plan(s), minutes, text messages, data offered and the price. Clicking
the provider’s name displays a pop-up window with the company’s
telephone number, website and languages served in case you have
questions or are ready to sign up.
Wireline telephone service
New landline customers establishing service and applying for California
LifeLine will pay regular rates until approved. You will be required to pay
the regular price for the service connection and any deposit for basic
service, but interest-free payment plans are available to help pay for
these upfront costs. Once approved, you will receive a bill credit with
the California LifeLine discount retroactive to the date service began or
the date you applied for California LifeLine, whichever is later. You will
also be credited for all but $10 or half of the California LifeLine service
provider’s regular connection charge, whichever is lower. And you will
receive a credit for any deposit paid for basic service.
If you already have regular landline telephone service, call your current
provider at the number printed on your monthly telephone bill and
ask to apply for California LifeLine. Once you are approved, there is a
small one-time charge to convert your account from regular service to
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California LifeLine. A credit for program discounts will be applied to your
account retroactive to the date you applied for California LifeLine.
Wireless telephone service
New wireless customers establishing service and applying for California
LifeLine may have the option of getting approved for LifeLine before
establishing service. Check with the participating wireless providers to
find out if you have to first establish regular service, or if you have to get
approved for the program before establishing service, as processes vary
by service provider.
If you have to establish regular service and pay regular rates first, once
you are approved your account will be credited retroactively to the date
service began or the date you applied for California LifeLine, whichever
is later. If you get approved for California LifeLine first, then your
discounts start immediately upon establishing service.
If you already have regular wireless service from a participating
California LifeLine wireless provider, contact your service provider to see
what service plans are eligible for California LifeLine. You must be on an
eligible plan to receive the California LifeLine discount. Once approved
for California LifeLine, discounts will be provided retroactively to the
date you applied.
Only one Lifeline account per household
A household must choose to get the Lifeline discount either on a home
phone or on a cell phone, but not on both. Only households that are
eligible for California LifeLine and include someone who needs a text
telephone device (TTY/TDD) to use the phone may qualify for two lines
at Lifeline rates. The discounts can only be for the primary residence.
Households cannot get the discount from multiple phone companies.
Discounts are non-transferable from one person to another.
Households that do not follow the California LifeLine “one discounted
service per household” rule will lose their discounts and may face
prosecution. Individuals can also be punished for giving false
information to get the discounts.
Application process for California LifeLine
The California LifeLine service provider will notify the California LifeLine
Administrator for the CPUC. The Administrator will approve or deny
your application based on your stated eligibility. The Administrator will
send you a California LifeLine application form, which is mailed in a pink
envelope. You must either complete the form online using the personal
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identification number (PIN) that came with the application or mail your
completed form to the address provided so that it is received by the
due date printed on the form (approximately 44 days). Do not send the
application form to your service provider.
You may elect to qualify for California LifeLine based on assistance
program enrollment (“program-based”) or on your household income
(“income-based”). You need to use just one of these two methods
to determine your eligibility—not both. (See guidelines in the next
section.)
You will receive a letter from the California LifeLine Administrator
notifying you whether you have been approved or denied for California
LifeLine. If your application is denied, you will remain on full-priced
regular service (if you established service prior to applying for the
program).
Am I eligible for California LifeLine service?
Customers must qualify for California LifeLine under either programbased or income-based eligibility requirements:
Option 1: Program-based certification
Complete the section of the application form titled “Program-based”
if you qualify for California LifeLine based on receipt of benefits under
any of the listed public assistance programs. Just fill in the circle next
to the appropriate public assistance program for your household. You
will need to provide proof of participation in the program along with
your application form. Acceptable forms of proof include a copy of
the current or prior year’s statement of benefits, a notice or letter of
participation, a program ID card, or another official program document
that shows your or your family member’s enrollment.
Option 2: Income-based certification
If you are not enrolled in any of the qualifying public assistance
programs, you must apply for California LifeLine based on your
household income. Complete the section of the application form titled
“Income-based.” You must provide proof that your total household
income is at or below the California LifeLine maximum. Acceptable
forms of proof include a copy of the front page of your prior year’s tax
return, income statements or pay stubs for three consecutive months
within the last year, the statement of benefits from programs such as
Social Security, VA, unemployment, workers’ compensation, etc., or
other documents that prove your household’s annual income.
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Make copies of all forms of proof before sending them with the
application. Do not send your originals.
You also must provide your housing status (temporary or permanent),
your date of birth and the last four digits of your Social Security number
or Tribal ID number. The household in which you are applying for
California LifeLine must be your primary residence and you cannot
currently receive Lifeline discounts. You cannot be a dependent on
someone else’s income tax return.
Qualified participants with a household member using a TTY device
may be eligible for two phone lines with the California LifeLine discount.
Program-based guidelines
You qualify for California LifeLine if you or another person in your
household is enrolled in any of the following public-assistance
programs:
● Medicaid/Medi-Cal
● Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
● CalFresh Program, formerly known as Food Stamps
● Tribal TANF
● Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC)
● Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
● Federal Public Housing Assistance or Section 8
● Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF):
v California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS)
v Stanislaus Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (StanWORKS)
v Welfare-to-Work (WTW)
v Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN)
● National School Lunch Program (NSLP) (free, not reduced, lunch
program)
● Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
● Head Start Income Eligible (Tribal Only)
● Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
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Income-based guidelines
You qualify for California LifeLine if your total before-tax household
income does not exceed these limits:
Household size
Yearly income*
1-2 members
$25,700
3 members
$29,900
4 members
$36,200
Each additional member
(over 4)
Add $6,300 per person to $36,200
* Valid 6/1/15 through 5/31/16. Income limits are adjusted annually.
Income-eligible Lifeline applicants must provide supporting
documentation such as tax returns and/or paycheck stubs in order
to qualify. Make copies of all papers before sending them with your
application. Do not send originals.
Household income includes all taxable and non-taxable income
received by everyone in your household. This includes, but is not limited
to:
● Wages and salaries
● Interest and dividends
● Spousal support (alimony) and child support
● Grants, gifts, allowances and stipends
● Social Security and pensions
● Public-assistance payments
● Rental income
● All cash and non-cash employment income (including selfemployment)
A “household” is any individual or group of individuals who are living
together at the same address as one economic unit. A household may
include related and unrelated persons. An “economic unit” consists of
all adult individuals (18 and older) contributing to and sharing in the
income and expenses of a household. If an adult has no or minimal
income, and lives with someone who provides financial support to him/
her, both people shall be considered as part of the same household.
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Children under the age of eighteen living with their parents or
guardians are considered to be part of the same household as their
parents or guardians.
Proof of income
Acceptable proof of income includes one or more of the following:
● Last year’s state, federal or tribal tax return
● Current income statement from an employer or paycheck stubs
for three consecutive months within the last 12 months
● Child support documents
● Statement of benefits from Social Security, Veterans
Administration, retirement/pension, unemployment
compensation or workers’ compensation
● A divorce decree
● Other official documents that prove your income
Residents of Tribal Lands
If you are living on federally recognized Tribal Lands, deeper discounts
apply on service plans, and they may be available for as low as $0 per
month. Contact your wireline or participating wireless provider for
specific rate information.
Ask your California LifeLine service provider about Enhanced Lifeline
or Tribal Lands Lifeline when you apply for California LifeLine service.
Your service provider may require additional information from you, such
as the name of the Tribal Lands you live on. The process of enrolling
in Enhanced Lifeline or Tribal Lands Lifeline varies by service provider.
Some providers allow for a one-step process in which you apply
for Enhanced Lifeline through the California LifeLine Administrator.
Others require a two-step process in which you must get approved for
California LifeLine first. Once you are approved, your California LifeLine
service provider will ask you to complete and return a Tribal Lands
request form in order to receive the deeper discount.
How do I continue to qualify for California
LifeLine?
All California LifeLine participants must verify each year that they still
are eligible for the program. However, you don’t need to send proof
of income or public assistance program participation when you are
verifying your eligibility.
The California LifeLine Administrator will mail you an annual renewal
form 105 days before your enrollment anniversary date. The renewal
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form will be mailed in a pink envelope. To remain in the program, you
complete either the “Program-based” or “Income-based” section of the
renewal form every 12 months. You can complete the form online or
mail it in, but it must be received by the California LifeLine Administrator
by the due date printed on the form.
If you are currently enrolled in any of the qualifying public assistance
programs, you should complete the program-based section of the
renewal form.
If you don’t receive benefits from any of the covered assistance
programs, you must complete the income-based section of the renewal
form.
If you or someone else in the household has a hearing disability and
you have two California LifeLine lines, you must also complete the
appropriate section of the form to keep both discounted lines.
It is very important that the California LifeLine Administrator receive
your completed form by the due date on the form. (Complete it online
or mail it in advance of the due date so that it arrives by the deadline.)
Forms that arrive late will not be processed.
If you fail to verify your continued eligibility by the due date, your
service provider will:
● Remove you from the California LifeLine program;
● Change your service to full-priced service; and
● May require a deposit from you.
Notify your California LifeLine service provider if you no longer
qualify for California LifeLine discounts or a second California LifeLine
connection, or you might have to repay the difference between
discounts you received and the full price for regular service.
Deaf or hearing-impaired
If you are requesting a second California LifeLine connection for a
deaf or hearing-impaired household member, you must complete the
appropriate section of either form and determine, according to the
instructions, whether you will need to attach a medical certificate that
verifies the person’s need for a teletypewriter, or TTY.
The documents you send will not be returned, so send copies, not
original documents.
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Which service plan should I choose?
For local landline service, consider the flat rate option if you make three
or more local calls per day. Measured service will be the better choice if
you make only one or two calls each day.
Local toll call charges are extra. Local toll calls are calls you make outside
of your local calling area but not far enough to be considered long
distance. Local toll call rates depend on where you call and at what
times you place the calls. Check your telephone directory for these rates.
Optional features such as caller ID, call waiting and voicemail are an
extra cost.
Wireless plans typically include nationwide calling as part of their
service offering. Use the CPUC’s online comparison tool (www.
californialifeline.com/en/provider_search) to do a side-by-side
comparison of the wireless plans available to you—it compares minutes,
text messages, data offered and price. Access the tool by entering
your ZIP code in the box under “Cell Phone Service” and then click the
“Compare” button at the right side of the page for each of the plans you
want to compare (up to three at a time).
Annual California LifeLine eligibility renewal
Each year, you will be sent a form that you must fill out to renew your
California LifeLine eligibility. You must “self-certify” your continuing
eligibility by completing the brief form (print or online) and submitting
it so it’s received by the due date. The CPUC does not require that you
submit proof of income or public assistance program participation
when you renew.
What services are not included with the
California LifeLine program?
Wireline telephone service
For residential landline service, long distance calls are not included in
the California LifeLine program. Long distance charges are higher than
local calls and can add up fast. As a California LifeLine customer, you can
make long distance calls but you won’t receive a discount on them.
If you qualify for California LifeLine, you are eligible for free “toll
blocking,” which prevents you or anyone else from making long distance
or local toll calls from your wireline home telephone. You can still
receive long distance calls and you can call toll-free numbers. You can
place long distance calls using a prepaid telephone card.
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Convenience features are not included in the California LifeLine
program. As a California LifeLine customer, you can order optional
services such as call waiting or caller ID, but you can’t get a discount on
these services. Before ordering any optional services, consider whether
you will use them enough to make the cost worthwhile.
Installation of new telephone jacks (outlets) is not included in the
California LifeLine program. California LifeLine gives you a discount on
connection charges to start your telephone service. However, if you do
not have a telephone jack in your home already, you will have to pay a
separate installation charge to the company that puts in your outlet.
Note: Under California law, landlords must provide one working jack for
each rental unit.
Wireless telephone service
Wireless service offerings typically include nationwide calling, caller
ID and voicemail. Some service offerings may include an allotment of
domestic text messaging. Check with participating wireless providers to
find out exactly what each carrier’s plans include. Discounts on handsets
are not included in California LifeLine.
For more information
The California Public Utilities Commission, the state’s utility regulator,
oversees the Lifeline program. If you have a complaint that you cannot
resolve with your telephone company or the California LifeLine
Administrator, contact the CPUC’s Consumer Affairs Branch, 505 Van
Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102. Telephone: 800-649-7570 or 415703-1170. Fax: 415-703-1158. E-mail: [email protected]
The California LifeLine Administrator’s website, www.CaliforniaLifeLine.
com, provides general California LifeLine program information,
sample forms and instructions, answers to frequently asked questions,
telephone carrier listings and links to CPUC online information. For new
service, call the California LifeLine Call Center at: 866-272-0349 (English),
866-272-0350 (Spanish) or 866-272-0356 (Chinese). To check the status
of an existing application, call the California LifeLine Administrator at
877-858-7463 (English/Spanish), 888-765-1566 (Chinese) or 888-8587889 (TTY).
The California Telephone Access Program distributes
telecommunications equipment and services to individuals with
hearing, vision, mobility or speech limitations. English: 800-806-1191
(voice) and 800-806-4474 (TTY). Spanish: 800-949-5650 (voice) and 800896-7670 (TTY).
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Consumer Action provides consumer advice, guides consumers to
complaint-handling agencies and distributes free consumer education
publications. Chinese, English and Spanish are spoken. Telephone: 415777-9635 or 213-624-8327. E-mail: [email protected]
Call your local service provider for more information or to apply for
California LifeLine discounts on your wireline (home) telephone
service. The number should be on your telephone bill or under
“Telecommunications Carriers” in the Yellow Pages telephone directory.
AT&T is a large provider of California LifeLine discounts:
● AT&T California: California LifeLine voice response system
(Lifeline eligibility information): 800-446-5651 (English)/800-882-0521
(Spanish)/888-765-1566 (Chinese). Service orders: 800288-2020 (English)/800-870-5855 (Spanish)/800-281-2288
(Chinese)/800-651-5111 (TTY).
For contact information for other wireline and wireless service providers,
visit https://californialifeline.com/en/provider_search and enter your
ZIP code in the field under “Home Phone Service” or “Cell Phone Service.”
(Visit https://californialifeline.com/es/provider_search for Spanish and
https://californialifeline.com/ch/provider_search for Chinese.) If you
do not have Internet access, contact the California LifeLine Call Center
at: 866-272-0349 (English), 866-272-0350 (Spanish) or 866-272-0356
(Chinese).
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Consumer Action
www.consumer-action.org
1170 Market St., Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94102
415-777-9635
[email protected]
11901 Santa Monica Blvd., PMB 563
Los Angeles, CA 90025
213-624-8327
[email protected]
Washington, DC
202-670-3601
[email protected]
Consumer advice and referral hotline
Submit consumer complaints to our advice and referral hotline:
[email protected] or 415-777-9635
Chinese, English and Spanish spoken
Consumer Action created this publication in partnership
with AT&T California.
© 2011
Rev. 8/15
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