Michigan residents struggling to find work in this economy often have to scrape to find the money for food and rent, let alone phone service.
"The unfortunate realities of Michigan's economy is that some residents have a hard time paying their bills," said James Murray, President of AT&T Michigan.
So to keep customers connected, the FCC created Lifeline in 2005. The program gives a mininum discount of $8.25 a month for residents who qualify. To qualify, a household needs to have an annual income within 150% of the Poverty Quideline. For a 1-person household that's a maximum income of $16,245 a year. Additionally, any customer on Medicaid, Food Stamps or most other forms of government assistance is also eligible for the discount.
"This program can be the difference between people being connected and people not being able to afford those connections," said Scott Stevenson, President of the Telecommunications Association of Michigan.
The Michigan Public Service Commission says there are about 90,000 people currently receiving a Lifeline discount in the state. That number is less than half of those eligible for the program.
"There are more people out there in need," said Commissioner Monica Martinez from the Michigan Public Service Commission. "In today's interconnected world, telephones provide a vital link to emergency services, community resources, friends and family."
The discount is not limited to landline service. Seven wireless providers, including Alltel, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and Virgin Mobile also offer the same discount.
The program is funded by the FCC's Universal Service Fund, which telephone companies are required to contribute a percentage of their revenues to annualy. However, that cost can be passed on to customers as a "Universal Service" fee on their bill.
Check out the "Hot Button" on the WILX website for more information on Lifeline.