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Oregon's Lifeline Phone Discounts Apply to Cell Service, Too



May 10, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. - In an attempt to stretch tight budgets, more low-income Oregonians are signing up for the Lifeline telephone assistance program. It's a $13.50 discount off a family's monthly phone bill. Until recently, the discount only could be applied to residential landlines, but now it has been expanded to include cell phones.

Sharon Hills, executive director of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, says many of those who come to her organization for help with rent, utilities and food do not have the money for a telephone, which is especially important if they're job-hunting.

"A lot of people who have lost their jobs or who just have very, very low income, might be able to afford to get a cell phone, but they're not going to be able to afford the $35 for the monthly payment to keep that cell phone."

People who are receiving food stamps, state-funded health care or some other types of government aid are eligible for Lifeline. Also known as the Oregon Telephone Assistance Program, or 'OTAP,' it is funded by a 12-cent fee on monthly phone bills.

The Oregon Public Utilities Commission says more than 48,000 households receive the Lifeline discount. Sabina Riggi signed up just a few months ago. As a foster parent, she says she can't afford to be without a phone, but she was having a hard time fitting it into the family budget.

"Well, considering I just got unemployed the first of March, every little bit helps - and especially the fact that it doesn't make a difference in your service."

For information about Lifeline or to download the application, go to www.puc.state.or.us.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR
 

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