SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Free cell phones and service are being given to low income citizens who qualify for the new benefit. The federal program is designed to help the homeless and needy connect with family and friends, housing programs, and potential employers. Over 4.5% of households are eligible here in California.
Kirsten Cahoon is a manager at Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Maria. The shelter offers temporary housing and assistance to those who need it. She says most of the people who come to the shelter need a cell phone, even if they can't afford it.
"They have to be able to have a contact number when it comes to job searching," says Cahoon. "They have to have a contact number even applying for SSI benefits. They have to have a phone interview contact phone number."
The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, Lifeline program in California only provided free landlines to the needy before the change. Offers from two wireless service companies were accepted by the state to allow income eligible Californians free cell phones. Reach Out Wireless and Assurance wireless will provide the phones. Both companies will be reimbursed by the FCC. The phones will come with monthly plans of 250 talk minutes and 250 text messages. To qualify, one has to prove they make less than $14,702 annually.
Anton Plantaz says, "I got a bad back. If something happens and I have no friends around and I'm in a bad spot, I wouldn't be able to call anybody."
Plantaz is homeless and without a phone. He says life would be much easier with one and he plans on applying with the new program.
Cahoon says she will advertise the program to people who come to the shelter.
"It will just be another one of the services we can offer them to help them get back on their feet," says Cahoon.
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