Free Cell Phones for the Needy

Used cell phonesIt’s probably a touchy subject for some. On one hand when people are in need it is not unheard of for a society to help them get on their feet. On the other hand some think they need to drag themselves out of their rut and find their own way. Whatever side you’re on, welfare is a part of all industrialized nations lives, but how far is too far? Where is the line drawn? Some states, like Texas, are giving out used cellphones to the needy who apply and are accepted into the program. Should other states follow suit more proactively?

I suppose the biggest question here is “why”? Why would the needy need a cellphone? Welfare already helps with food and, in some cases, pay for the unemployed. But a cell phone? Pay and food are obvious but a wireless connection may not appear so obvious on the surface. The Federal Government actually subsidizes programs that give out cellphone service for free called Lifeline. TracFone offers a program called Safelink that gives you a free phone (that normally costs around $10), 68 minutes of free talk, free 911 calls, voice mail and long distance. These companies, like TracFone, get money from the government to make these programs for the needy. Essentially people apply with basic information and they get a lower than basic cell phone plan. The hope is to get more people easy access to communication that could help someone get a job or stay connected with their children.

The subsidy is only $10 a household and no company has let out what, if any, profit they may make from such a program. Considering the lower than basic plan it can’t be much. They may make it all up with their five cent a minute additional charge when going over your allotted 68 minutes.  One such customer, April Crudup, has only four minutes left while only half way through the month. The plan is meant to be free, but incredibly limited. 68 minutes may be fine for some, but spread out in an entire month isn’t much time, which equals just over 2 minutes a day each month.

Texas, on the other hand, has taken it into their own hands to cover the needy. If you apply through their program you get a cell phone and 250 minutes of call time per month! That is significantly better than TracFones limited 68 minutes. Texas also gives out Used and Refurbished cellphones as their free phone service. this is odd coming from a state known for it’s stingy attitude to handout programs. The hope is to get more people connected and hopefully connected to jobs, but some argue it breeds dependency to the government… Though that same claim was put on food stamps and unemployment.  The programs haven’t been efficiently measured or studied yet, so their possible benefits are unknown at the moment.  Personally I want to help more people as much as I can, and getting them connected with a basic plan with a basic phone isn’t something I think is out of the question. A simple phone with no smart phone capabilities and free emergency calling is something, this day and age, everyone should have.

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