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.
- 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 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 National Verifier (NV) 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, 2020, the FCC issued an Order temporarily adjusting the acceptable documentation guidelines for Lifeline. Changes to these guidelines, most recently extended in an FCC Order on February 24, 2021, 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 June 30, 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 driver’s 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 June 30, 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 in 2020 and on February 24, 2021, the FCC temporarily paused periodic program integrity reviews and made temporary changes to general de-enrollment, non-usage de-enrollment, recertification, and reverification requirements.
The February 24, 2021 waiver notes that waivers governing recertification, reverification, and general de-enrollment are extended through June 30, 2021, for all applicable Lifeline participants. The full waiver period does not apply to the existing waiver of the FCC’s non-usage rule. The FCC has limited the waiver extension timeframe associated with the non-usage requirement so that it does not extend beyond May 1. As a result, service providers are required to send cure notices to subscribers who, as of May 1, 2021, have not used their service in the previous 30 days.
This means that through June 30, 2021:
- Recertification is on hold for all subscribers with anniversary dates between April 14, 2020, and September 28, 2021. Affected subscribers will only be recertified once in the calendar year 2021.
- Reverification activity is on hold.
State Agency Access to the National Verifier
The FCC and USAC expanded access to the National Verifier (NV) to enable state agencies to take a more hands-on role in helping consumers apply for the Lifeline program. This access allows state agencies to assist consumers in signing up for Lifeline through the NV, much like Lifeline service providers do today.
Access to an NV 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 NV 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 June 30, 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.
- February 24, 2021 FCC Order Extending Temporary Program Changes
- November 16, 2020 FCC Order Extending Temporary Program Changes
- August 17, 2020 FCC Order Extending Temporary Program Changes
- June 1, 2020 FCC Order Making Temporary Program Changes
- April 29, 2020 FCC Order Extending Temporary Program Changes
- March 30, 2020 FCC Order Extending Temporary Program Changes
- March 17, 2020 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.