Millions of Americans on low-income, including those receiving unemployment benefits amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, may qualify to receive a free smartphone, in addition to free cell service, under a new government partnership with TruConnect, a nationwide wireless service provider.
TruConnect has partnered with Lifeline, a government program offering affordable wireless service to low-income customers launched by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, which most Americans don’t know about, according to the co-founder and chief executive officer of TruConnect, Matthew Johnson.
TruConnect’s free service includes “talk, text, and 3GB of data each month plus free international calling to select countries. You may even qualify for a free 5″ LTE Android smartphone,” the company website states.
Johnson told California’s KTLA: “Currently, there are roughly 30 to 40 million people who don’t have access to high-speed internet and that’s only increased recently with the issues due to COVID-19.
“Across the U.S., the two basic programs that automatically qualify you are Medicaid and Snap, so if you’re on one of those two programs you automatically qualify,” Johnson noted.
Unemployment benefits may qualify as a form of income eligibility and those interested can enter their zip code and email at the TruConnect website to apply.
The Federal Communication Commission explains: “Since 1985, the Lifeline program has provided a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers to ensure that all Americans have the opportunities and security that phone service brings, including being able to connect to jobs, family and emergency services.
“Lifeline is part of the Universal Service Fund. The Lifeline program is available to eligible low-income consumers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal lands,” the commission adds.
While there are other companies that offer free cell phone service to qualifying low-income individuals, TruConnect differentiates itself by offering additional services, such as calls to other countries, including Mexico, Canada, China, Vietnam and South Korea, which are included in the plan.
TruConnect also manufactures its own smartphones, which helps to enhance quality and performance as well as minimize bloatware, Chicago’s NewsNation reported.
“All of our products, including the hotspot, are 4G LTE network-compatible,” Johnson said.
TruConnect currently offers Lifeline service to residents in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The service is expected to be offered in additional areas soon, the company notes on its website.
Millions continue to face low income levels amid the financial blow of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 12.6 million reported to be collecting unemployment benefits, compared with just 1.7 million a year ago, the U.S. Labor Department reported last month.
The 10.6 million new jobs added by employers from May through August was reported to still be less than half the jobs lost in March and April, according to the Associated Press.