Pa. calls on residents to take advantage of discounted phone service

     Gladys Brown, chairwoman of Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission, says the state wants to make sure all residents eligible for the discounted phone service are aware of it. (Mary Wilson/WHYY)

    Gladys Brown, chairwoman of Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission, says the state wants to make sure all residents eligible for the discounted phone service are aware of it. (Mary Wilson/WHYY)

    Pennsylvania is trying to drum up interest in discounted phone service for the commonwealth’s neediest residents.

     

    More than 900,000 Pennsylvania residents signed up last year for the federal program known as Lifeline. Based on statewide poverty statistics, state officials believe many more people are eligible.

    “We want to make sure that everyone is signed up,” said Gladys Brown, chairwoman of the state’s Public Utility Commission, who addressed reporters Tuesday at a Harrisburg fire station. “We’re getting $71 million in Pennsylvania for the Lifeline program. That’s a lot of money, so we want to make sure people have access to those services.

    Families and individuals qualify if their income is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty level – such as a family of four making $32,737. Residents could also qualify based on their enrollment in other state and federal programs, such as Medicaid, food stamps, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and public housing assistance.

    Lifeline provides an average monthly savings of $9.25, which can be applied to one landline or wireless phone per household.

    Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse joined the PUC to promote the Lifeline telephone discount program. He said the awareness campaign comes at a time when his own city’s residents are concerned about other rising utility costs.

    “Almost half the populace lives at or below the poverty line,” Papenfuse said. “So here’s an example of an actual savings which individuals and families can achieve right now on their bills.”

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.