Is California LifeLine Right for You?
- Important New Information About the California LifeLine Program
- Important Information for New Applicants of Discounted Home Phone Services
- Important Information for New Applicants of Discounted Cell Phone Services
- Starting the Application Process
- Continue Your Discounts (Renewal Process)
- Qualification Methods
There are two main Universal LifeLine Telephone Service discounts in California. There are discounts from the California LifeLine Program (California LifeLine) and from the federal Lifeline program (federal Lifeline). All qualified California households may take advantage of these telephone discount programs to help lower the cost of their phone bills. The California LifeLine Administrator administers both the California LifeLine Program and the federal Lifeline program.
Only one discount per household for each residential address is allowed (except for teletypewriter users and for Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program participants). Each household must choose to get the discount either on a home phone or on a cell phone, but not on both. Households cannot get the discount from multiple phone companies. Households that do not follow the one discount per household rule will lose their discounts.
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 unless emancipated) contributing to and sharing the household's income and expenses.
The Federal Communications Commission requires collection of Date of Birth and last 4 digits of Social Security Number or Tribal ID Number on application and renewal forms to be eligible for California LifeLine and federal Lifeline discounts.
Important New Information About the California LifeLine Program
Beginning June 1, 2017, the California LifeLine Program (California LifeLine) has two new limitations on consumers requesting the California LifeLine discounts for home or cell phone services. These two new limitations were created to comply with Assembly Bill 2570, authored by State Assembly Member Bill Quirk, which became state law in Public Utilities Code Section 878.5. Please go to http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml, https://a20.asmdc.org/, and http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB2570 to learn more.
New Limitation #1 = 30 Day Waiting Period for an Enrollment Request for the California LifeLine Discounts for Cell Phone Service When you submit an enrollment request to receive the California LifeLine discounts for cell phone service you have to wait up to 30 days to submit another enrollment request. You CANNOT have multiple enrollment requests for the California LifeLine discounts for cell phone service going at the same time. The 30-day waiting period ends when either 1) the California LifeLine Administrator sends the final eligibility decision, 2) the enrollment request s cancelled, or 3) the 30 days have passed since the enrollment request, whichever occurs first. After the 30-day clock stops, you may then submit another enrollment request for the California LifeLine discounts for cell phone service, as applicable. You can independently cancel an enrollment request by contacting the California LifeLine Administrator by phone or going to Check Your Status. The cell phone company can also cancel an enrollment request.
New Limitation #2 = 60 Day Freeze for Transferring Your California LifeLine Discounts (also called Discount Transfer Freeze) for Both Home and Cell Phone Services Once the California LifeLine Administrator approves your eligibility to receive the California LifeLine discounts, you have to keep your California LifeLine discounts with the same phone company for 60 days. The 60-day clock begins when the California LifeLine discounts start. After staying with the same phone company for 60 days, you may choose to remain with the same phone company or to change to a different phone company while keeping the California LifeLine discounts. This requirement means that you can only transfer your California LifeLine discounts to a different phone company once every 60 days. Transferring your California LifeLine discounts to a different phone company restarts the 60-day clock.
You MAY cancel your phone service or switch phone companies at any time. However, if you are still within the 60-day clock and you cancel your phone service or switch phone companies, then you will stop receiving the California LifeLine discounts and will be removed from the California LifeLine Program.
However, there are ways to transfer your California LifeLine discounts to a different phone company sooner, which are as follows:
- you move to a new address
- your phone company no longer offers phone service or otherwise fails to provide phone service
- your phone company charged late fees greater than your monthly out of pocket cost for your phone service
- your phone company was found in violation of either the California LifeLine Program’s, the California Public Utilities Commission’s, or the Federal Communications Commission’s rules while you were a participant and that rule violation impacted you.
How to Transfer Your California LifeLine Discounts Before the 60-Day Clock Ends When Your Home or Cell Phone Company Fails to Provide the California LifeLine Discounted Phone Service As a California LifeLine participant, you are entitled to a voice-grade connection. If you are experiencing a service failure, you should immediately inform your phone company of the service failure so your phone company can try and resolve the service failure. If your phone company does not resolve the service failure, you can request an exception to the discount transfer freeze due to a service failure (also called a service failure exception). Please remember that before requesting a service failure exception, you should immediately inform your phone company of the service failure.
Examples of what would NOT constitute as a failure to provide service:
- a) Your dissatisfaction with the feature(s) of the service, the service rate(s), or the quality of customer service.
- b) Your confusion about the phone service plan.
- c) Another cell phone company is offering a better handset. If the handset works and the cell phone service has coverage where needed, then a “better” handset is not a service failure.
- d) You want a handset upgrade provided by the cell phone company.
- e) You break or otherwise damage the handset provided by the cell phone company, which renders the handset as non-operable.
- f) You lose the handset provided by the cell phone company.
- g) The handset provided by the cell phone company was stolen.
- h) You lack understanding or knowledge to utilize the handset provided by the cell phone company.
You can contact the California LifeLine Administrator by phone or going to Check Your Status to request a service failure exception to the discount transfer freeze. The California LifeLine Administrator will then determine whether it is appropriate to start the exception process. If the California LifeLine Administrator grants your exception order, you can transfer your California LifeLine discounts to a different phone company prior to the discount transfer freeze ending.
You MUST DO these 4 things for the California LifeLine Administrator to grant your exception order:
- give the existing phone company an opportunity to resolve the service failure
- order a service failure exception from the California LifeLine Administrator
- after the phone company’s opportunity lapses to resolve the service failure, confirm that the service failure still exists – you have 1 week to submit this confirmation
- contact a different home or cell phone company and ask to receive phone service with the California LifeLine discounts; your preferred phone company will submit the transfer request on your behalf to the California LifeLine Administrator.
Important Information for New Applicants of Discounted Home Phone ServicesBeginning July 1, 2009, new applicants for the California LifeLine home phone discounts must be approved before the California LifeLine discounts are received. If you apply to be in California LifeLine, you will pay the regular rates for basic home phone service until your application is approved. Please be sure to ask the home phone company what the charges are so you will be aware of these rates and fees.
To help you pay the up-front costs of establishing your home phone service such as the service installation/connection fee, service conversion fee, and deposits, you can request to be placed on an interest-free payment plan. This will spread out your payments in more manageable amounts while you wait for your eligibility to be approved for California LifeLine. Payment plans can vary between the different home phone companies.
After being approved by the California LifeLine Administrator you will be refunded the difference between the regular rates and the California LifeLine discounted rates for any applicable monthly service charges, service installation/connection fee, service conversion fee, and deposits for basic home phone service.
You will receive a bill credit with the California LifeLine discounts retroactive to the date your service began or the date you requested to be enrolled, whichever is later. If your bill has a net credit balance of $10.00 or more, you may request a refund check from your home phone company. Otherwise, the refund will be a credit on your account.
Important Information for New Applicants of Discounted Pre-Paid Cell Phone Services
Beginning January 16, 2014, cell phone companies offering California LifeLine pre-paid cell phone discounts might not provide the handset until the cell phone company has received notification of the applicant’s approved eligibility from the California LifeLine Administrator. While waiting for the discounted services to be approved and activated, we encourage applicants to find other ways to make and receive calls.
If approved by the California LifeLine Administrator, the California LifeLine discounts will start either on the date the California LifeLine Administrator notifies the cell phone company of the applicant’s approved eligibility or on the date the discounted service was activated (i.e., the California LifeLine participant can make and receive calls with the handset provided by the California LifeLine cell phone service provider), whichever is later.
Immediately after the discounted service is activated, we encourage California LifeLine participants to promptly check their signal and coverage adequacy at home and in areas they frequent. If a participant is dissatisfied with the signal and coverage, participants have the benefit of canceling their discounted service within 14 days of service activation without incurring early termination fees.
All California LifeLine (home and cell phone service) providers are required to provide a voice-grade connection. However, weather, trees, mountains, terrain, buildings, call volumes, service outages, and signal gaps can make service infeasible or below a voice-grade connection. If California LifeLine participants fail to receive a voice-grade connection, we encourage them to inform their provider quickly. California LifeLine providers are required to promptly restore the voice-grade connection, to provide the phone service using a different technology if not possible with the existing technology, and to allow the participants to cancel their service within 14 days of service activation without incurring early termination fees.
If California LifeLine participants cancel their California LifeLine cell phone service within three business days of service activation, excluding national holidays, California LifeLine providers are required to refund, in full, any and all applicable service activation fees and deposits to the participant. Additionally, California LifeLine providers cannot assess a restocking fee to participants if they return their cell phone handsets/devices within three business days of service activation, excluding national holidays. However, participants are still responsible for paying for any usage charges between the service activation date and the service cancellation date.
Starting the Application Process
To apply for California LifeLine you must call your home or cell phone company and state you qualify for the program via Program-Based OR Income-Based. Once you inform the home or cell phone company that you qualify, they will begin the application process for you. Within a week, you will be mailed an application form with an Enrollment Code and/or a Personal Identification Number (PIN) in a PINK envelope. In order to receive the California LifeLine benefits, you must complete the form, sign it, and send it to the California LifeLine Administrator along with any required documents by the due date. You may also Apply Online.
Please be sure to sign your application if you are mailing it. If you do not apply online or return the completed and signed application form by the due date, you will not receive the discount. If you signed up for home phone service, you will also continue to pay the regular rates. If you signed up for pre-paid cell phone service, we encourage you to find other ways to make and receive calls.
You can check out how the Application Process works for more details.
If you have any questions about your application, status, or due dates, please call the California LifeLine Administrator's hotline.
If you are submitting your application by mail, please be sure to send your completed and signed application form along with the required documents to:
P.O. Box 8417
Westminster, CA 92684-8417
If you currently do not have home phone service, you can contact the California LifeLine Call Center or click on Provider Search to determine the home or cell phone companies in your area. The home or cell phone company must be an approved California LifeLine telephone service provider.
Continue Your Discounts (Renewal Process)
To renew for California LifeLine you will be mailed a renewal form with a Personal Identification Number (PIN) in a PINK envelope from the California LifeLine Administrator 105 days prior to your California LifeLine anniversary date. In order to continue receiving the California LifeLine benefits, you must complete the form, sign it, and send it to the California LifeLine Administrator by the due date. You may also Renew Online.
Please be sure to sign your renewal if you are mailing it. If you do not renew online or return the completed and signed renewal form by the due date, you will not continue to receive the discount. If you have home phone service you will also begin paying the regular rates. If you have pre-paid cell phone service you may choose to sign up for service at regular rates with the same or different cell phone company.
You can check out how the Renewal Process works for more details.
If you have any questions about your renewal, status, or due dates, please call the California LifeLine Administrator's hotline.
If you are submitting your renewal by mail, then please be sure to send your completed and signed renewal form to:
P.O. Box 8417
Westminster, CA 92684-8417
There are two ways to qualify for the program. You may qualify for California LifeLine via Program-Based OR Income-Based. Documentation of proof of eligibility is required.
Under Program-Based, you may qualify for the California LifeLine discounts if you or another person in your household is already enrolled in one or more of the eligible public-assistance programs. Check out Is California LifeLine Right for You? to see the list of eligible public-assistance programs.
Under Income-Based, you may qualify for California LifeLine if your annual total household income is at or less than the California LifeLine income limits.
Household income includes, but is not limited to: wages, salaries, interest, dividends, alimony and child support, grants, gifts, allowances, stipends, lottery winnings, inheritances, worker’s compensation, unemployment and public assistance benefits, social security payments, pensions, rental income, income from self-employment, cash payments from other sources, and all employment-related non-cash income.
Check out Is California LifeLine Right for You? to see the annual income limits.