Verizon Lifeline Program Reaches Out to Low-Income Residents and Seniors in New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. -- Verizon's "Communications Lifeline" program for New Jersey residents is reaching out to low-income people and seniors who qualify for discounts on their local telephone bills.

Beginning April 1, Verizon will automatically enroll phone customers in the Communications Lifeline program when they participate in at least one of eight state assistance programs for residents with low incomes. In addition, the company will allow seniors 65 years and older who meet income guidelines to enroll in the program simply by providing proof of income to Verizon.

"Verizon wants to get the message out that each and every eligible New Jersey resident can have telephone service," said Dennis Bone, president of Verizon New Jersey. "Verizon's Communications Lifeline service has provided a true lifeline to many residents for years and this newly enhanced program will make this essential service available to many more residents."

Tens of thousands of additional New Jersey residents are expected to qualify for this discount program, which was introduced in the Garden State in 1997. Verizon is working with the state of New Jersey to implement the changes to the program.

"With programs such as Communications Lifeline, New Jersey is working to make utilities affordable for seniors while ensuring quality and customer service," said Gov. James E. McGreevey. "Communications Lifeline, regarded as the best telephone assistance program in the nation, is one of a number of utility assistance programs created to help seniors and other citizens pay their utility bills. In New Jersey, we look forward to making Communications Lifeline a reality for thousands more in the months and years ahead."

Communications Lifeline customers get credits ranging from $10.40 to $13 towards their rates for residential monthly service. As a result, their monthly rate, which depends on the basic service chosen and rate area, may range from zero to $2.19. About 48,000 customers currently participate in the program, and enrollment is initially expected to more than double to about 120,000.

"Telephone service is a basic necessity of life. That is why the Communications Lifeline program is so important and why, under the Governor's leadership, we are collaborating with the Ratepayer Advocate, state agencies and Verizon to make Communications Lifeline a reality for the elderly and others in New Jersey," said Jeanne M. Fox, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. "In addition, automatic enrollment will ensure that a greater number of people take advantage of this program."

New Jersey Ratepayer Advocate Seema M. Singh said: "The Ratepayer Advocate's Office has been very active in championing the need for automatic enrollment and increasing Communication Lifeline benefits for New Jersey's elderly customers. We urge qualified residents to take advantage of the program. Working along with Verizon, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and other state agencies, we will continue to work so that the state's elderly and disabled have the opportunity to obtain and maintain reliable telephone service at affordable rates."

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for automatic enrollment, customers must participate in at least one of the following state programs:

  • Food Stamps
  • General Assistance
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Medicaid
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families/Work First New Jersey
  • Lifeline Utility Credit/Tenants' Lifeline Assistance
  • Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled
  • Home Energy Assistance Program

In addition, applicants for Communications Lifeline cannot be claimed as dependents for federal income tax purposes unless they are over 60 years old. After the initial April 1 enrollment of those participating in the eight programs, Verizon will automatically add Communications Lifeline customers once every three months. Customers who become eligible for one of the eight state programs between the automatic enrollments should call that program office for a Lifeline application.

Communications Lifeline also now allows customers 65 years and older and whose income level is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty income level to self-certify. For individuals, the household's income cannot exceed $13,470, and a two-person household's income cannot exceed $18,180. For self-certification, seniors must provide income documentation to Verizon within 30 days of enrolling in Lifeline.

Additional Eligibility Criteria

Communications Lifeline customers are limited to one phone line and are eligible for three basic services:

  • Flat rate - Allows unlimited local calling.

  • Low-use message rate - Allows 20 local message units each month. Each additional message unit is 10 cents. A message unit is a local call of five minutes or less.

  • Moderate message rate - Allows 75 local message units each month. Each additional message unit is 6.5 cents. A message unit is a local call of five minutes or less.

Communications Lifeline customers receive Touch-Tone service at no cost. Optional services are limited to a non-published listing, Call Block, Caller ID, Caller ID with Name, Call Trace and wire maintenance plans. Customers with other services will be notified and given the choice to disconnect them.

Link Up America installation discounts

In addition to Communications Lifeline, customers can apply to the Link Up America program, which provides up to a 50 percent discount for charges to connect a new telephone line. The remaining portion of the charges can be billed in 12 monthly installments. To be eligible for Link Up America, an applicant must be enrolled in one of the eight state programs listed above that qualify a customer for Lifeline and must provide a state-certified Lifeline/Link Up America application to Verizon or be a senior, 65 years and older with an income at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty income level. Eligible senior applicants must self-certify by providing income documentation to Verizon.

For further information on the Communications Lifeline and Link Up America programs, call 1-800-427-9977. Information is also available at www.verizon.com/nj.

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 135.8 million access line equivalents and 32.5 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. With more than $67 billion in annual revenues and 229,500 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 30 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.