FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, Sept. 10, 2010
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, deputy executive director, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 or (605) 280-4327
Lifeline and Link-Up telephone programs connect South Dakotans
PIERRE, S.D. – Access to local emergency services and community resources is vital to all South Dakotans. For some, a local phone can be the difference between social connection and complete isolation.
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission wants the state's residents to stay connected and is reaching out to those who need phone service but can't afford it. The PUC is joining regulatory commissions across the country in recognizing Lifeline Awareness Week, Sept. 12-18, to promote the availability of Lifeline and Link-Up telephone assistance programs to eligible consumers. The programs offer discounts to help residents access basic local telephone service.
Under the federal Lifeline program, eligible telephone customers are entitled to receive a basic telephone service discount on their monthly phone bill. Link-Up provides a 50 percent reduction in the telephone service installation charge, up to a maximum of $30, for qualifying households that do not currently have telephone service. Customers of either program can also sign up for toll blocking or toll limitation service that either blocks or limits long-distance calls from the applicant's phone. Those living on tribal lands may qualify for additional discounts.
Applicants qualify for Lifeline and Link-Up if they participate in any of the following programs:
- Medicaid (example, Title XIX, Medical State Supplemental Assistance)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
- Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP)
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
- National School Lunch Free Lunch Program
An applicant may also qualify if their household income is no more than 135 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines.
Residents of tribal lands may apply for Enhanced Lifeline and Link-Up that offer a different discount structure. The list of qualifying programs for Enhanced Lifeline and Link-Up applicants is expanded to include:
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF)
- Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met)
- Tribal National School Lunch Program
According to the Universal Service Administrative Company, there were 23,119 users of the Lifeline program in South Dakota in 2009 while more than 1,600 South Dakotans were recipients of the Link-Up program. USAC administers the federal Universal Service Fund that provides support for local telephone companies to offer Lifeline and Link-Up to their customers.
"The Lifeline figures from USAC represent a nearly 17 percent increase in users over the previous year," said PUC Chairman Dusty Johnson. "That's an impressive gain, but I know there are many more South Dakotans in need and eligible for these programs. We need to reach those folks and we need friends and neighbors to help spread the word," he said.
Applicants for either program need to send a form and documentation of their eligibility to their local telephone provider. Applications are available from the telephone companies or can be found on the PUC's Web site at www.puc.sd.gov/lifeline.
"The PUC's consumer affairs staff is trained to guide people through the application process," said PUC Vice Chairman Steve Kolbeck. "Ultimately, the form needs to be sent by the applicant to their local telephone company. The PUC staff can answer questions about the programs' benefits and eligibility requirements," he commented. Interested consumers can call the PUC at 1-800-332-1782 for information and assistance.
"The Lifeline and Link-Up telephone programs address two key issues: connection and affordability," remarked PUC Commissioner Gary Hanson. "Seeking ways to save money is more important now than ever and staying connected in our rural state is vital for health, safety, economic and social reasons. I hope we see a surge of applications for both programs," he said.
See more details about the Lifeline and Link-Up programs, including a proclamation by Gov. Mike Rounds declaring Sept. 12-18, 2010, as Lifeline Awareness Week, on the PUC's Web site at www.puc.sd.gov/lifeline.
- 30 -