USAC and the FCC have taken action to ensure that consumers have access to the connectivity services they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lifeline Support Center remains fully operational.
Additional support measures taken due to COVID-19 include:
- More flexibility for consumers. The FCC and USAC have temporarily adjusted the income and identification documentation requirements to allow individuals recently unemployed or social distancing due to the pandemic to more easily complete their Lifeline application.
- Continued service for consumers. The FCC temporarily paused through February 28 Lifeline Program integrity reviews, as well as usage, recertification, reverification, and general de-enrollment requirements, to ensure consumers are not involuntarily de-enrolled from the Lifeline Program during the pandemic.
- State agency access to the National Verifier. The FCC and USAC expanded access to the Lifeline National Verifier to enable state agencies to assist consumers with the Lifeline application process during the pandemic, much like Lifeline service providers do today.
- Relief for rural, Tribal consumers. The FCC temporarily waived its rules to allow Lifeline providers to begin providing service to eligible consumers residing in rural areas on Tribal lands even if those consumers have not yet submitted certain supporting documentation to complete their Lifeline application.
More Flexibility for Consumers
On April 29, the FCC issued an Order temporarily adjusting the acceptable documentation guidelines for Lifeline. Changes to these guidelines, which were extended in FCC Orders released on June 1, August 17, and most recently on November 16, will ease the documentation burden on those who are recently unemployed due to the pandemic
Income Eligibility Documentation
One way that a consumer who qualifies for Lifeline based on their income can prove eligibility is to provide three consecutive months of income documentation. Due to the pandemic and recent unemployment, there may be eligible consumers who are unable able to meet this requirement.
In response, the FCC waived its requirements for income-based eligibility documentation as follows.
Through February 28, 2021, consumers who do not have three consecutive months of income documentation may provide an official document that confirms their current income information. This may include a notice of unemployment benefit payments or a notice of a successfully submitted application for unemployment benefits.
To prove a consumer’s current household income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines, as an alternative to acceptable documentation already allowed by the Lifeline Program’s rules, consumers may submit an official document that, at a minimum, includes:
- The consumer’s name, or the name of the consumer’s benefit qualifying person (BQP);
- Their current income information; and
- A date within the last 3 months.
Additionally, in light of states issuing blanket extensions on the expiration of drivers licenses during the COVID-19 pandemic, USAC is temporarily accepting driver’s licenses or state identification cards that have recently expired, when needed to complete a Lifeline application. USAC’s acceptable documentation guidelines previously required that a document used to prove identity must be unexpired, if a document (such as a driver’s license or state identification card) has an expiration date on it.
Through February 28, 2021, USAC will accept driver’s licenses or state identification cards that are expired, as long as the identification expired on or after March 1, 2020.
Continued Service for Consumers
In Orders issued on March 17, March 30, April 29, June 1, and on August 17, the FCC temporarily paused periodic program integrity reviews and made temporary changes to general de-enrollment, non-usage de-enrollment, recertification, and reverification requirements. These changes, which were recently extended in the FCC Order issued on November 16, will help prevent Lifeline consumers from being involuntarily de-enrolled from the Lifeline Program during the pandemic.
The November 16 waiver notes that these temporary changes to the program will remain in effect through February 28, 2021.
This means that through February 28, 2021:
- Involuntary de-enrollments of existing subscribers should not occur.
- There will be no new Lifeline Program integrity reviews announced.
- Recertification is now on hold for subscribers with anniversary dates between April 14, 2020, and May 29, 2021.
- Reverification outreach to subscribers and reverification de-enrollments are on hold.
- Consumers should not be de-enrolled for not using their Lifeline service during the waiver period.
State Agency Access to the National Verifier
The FCC and USAC expanded access to the Lifeline National Verifier to enable state agencies to take a more hands-on role in helping consumers apply for the Lifeline Program. This access will allow state agencies to assist consumers in signing up for Lifeline through the National Verifier, much like Lifeline service providers do today.
Access to a National Verifier account will enable state agencies to help consumers submit online applications, upload eligibility or other documentation (as needed), and track the status of applications.
State public utility commissions, state departments of health and human services, and state social service agencies that are interested in such access should visit the Account Types page to learn more. State users interested in receiving National Verifier access should also review the State National Verifier Access webinar.
For additional resources and information for state and federal partners, visit the Lifeline Resources for State and Federal Partners page.
Relief for Rural, Tribal Consumers
The FCC temporarily waived the requirement that consumers residing in rural areas on Tribal lands must finish submitting any necessary documentation prior to receiving their Lifeline-supported service through February 28, 2021.
Service providers are able to begin providing Lifeline access to applicable consumers who are unable to provide documentation at the time of application submission.
This relief will allow consumers residing in rural areas on Tribal lands to receive service immediately. The consumer will then have 45 days to submit their documentation to maintain their Lifeline benefit.
For more information, review the Rural Tribal Waiver training.
- November 16 FCC Order Extending Temporary Program Changes
- August 17 FCC Order Extending Temporary Program Changes
- June 1 FCC Order Making Temporary Program Changes
- April 29 FCC Order Extending Temporary Program Changes
- March 30 FCC Order Extending Temporary Program Changes
- March 17 FCC Order Making Temporary Program Changes
The Lifeline Program remains dedicated to serving Lifeline consumers during this unprecedented time. These temporary adjustments help support program participants during the COVID-19 pandemic.