The Maine Public Utilities Commission and the Office of the Public Advocate are promoting the Lifeline Program, which offers discounts to low-income residents to ensure access to basic local telephone service.

This discounted phone service gives these Mainers a chance to retain needed access to local emergency services and community resources.

“Telephone service provides access to important emergency services and community resources. Mainers in challenging financial circumstances should have an affordable opportunity to keep this vital connection,” said MPUC Chairman Thomas Welch in a news release.” Fortunately, there is assistance available to customers who need help paying for their telephone services.”

“The Office of the Public Advocate continually works to ensure access to affordable communications services for all Mainers, and the federal Lifeline program is an important part of achieving that goal,” said Public Advocate Timothy Schneider. “Recent changes to the federal Lifeline program make it more important than ever that consumers are aware of their Lifeline options and how to qualify for the program. Our office is always here to answer any questions and provide information about these options.”

Under Maine’s Lifeline program, telephone customers who participate in certain public assistance programs are entitled to receive a basic telephone service discount of at least $12.75 per month. There are also several carriers that provide similar help for Mainers in situations where a cellphone makes more sense than a landline phone; these companies offer free cellphones and several plans with free pre-paid calling minutes for qualified customers.

To qualify for these programs, a customer or a member of the customer’s household must qualify for one of the following services: food stamps, Supplemental Social Security Income, Medicaid (including expanded Maine Medicaid), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or the Home Energy Assistance Program.

To enroll in the Lifeline Program, customers should contact their local telephone company. If customers have questions about or difficulty applying for the Lifeline Program, they can call the MPUC’s Consumer Assistance Division at (800) 452-4699.