Rep. Vern Swanson

Rep. Vern Swanson

State Rep. Vern Swanson, Clay Center, is helping consumers understand legislation that will help low income customers take advantage of a program that offers significant discounts on basic local telephone service for those who need it.

The Kansas Lifeline Service Program helps individuals who meet certain income requirements receive more than $16 in total discounts on their monthly phone bill.

Approximately 29,000 Kansans receive Lifeline service, but that number should increase as a result of HB 2637, which was passed last year by the Kansas Legislature.

The law allows the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) and local telephone companies to work together to provide automatic enrollment of residents who currently are recipients of public assistance programs such as food stamps and temporary assistance to families.

"In these tough economic times, our goal is to ensure that financially disadvantaged people are helped. That's why we took steps to automatically enroll people in the program," Swanson said.

"This is a great example of the Legislature, SRS and industry working together to assure that low income customers take advantage of available discounts," he said. "Under this program, low income Kansans can save about $200 per year on their landline phone service bill."

Individuals are eligible for Lifeline discounts if they participate in Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), General Assistance, the food distribution program of the United Tribes of Kansas and Southeast Nebraska, Inc., the National School Lunch Program or if their household income is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

Currently, the federal poverty level for a family of four is $22,050, bringing the eligibility cutoff to $33,075.

To enroll, consumers should call their local phone company. They will be mailed a form to complete and return, verifying eligibility.

Consumers statewide may also call the United Way three digit number 211 toll free to obtain general information about this and other resource programs for human needs in Kansas communities.

"We commend the Legislature and SRS for being very proactive in helping low income Kansans utilize critical telephone services", said Dan Jacobsen, President of AT&T Kansas.

Kansas governor Mark Parkinson has proclaimed the week of Sept. 14-20 to be Kansas Lifeline Awareness Week.

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners has alsodesignated the week of Sept. 14 as national Lifeline Awareness Week.