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Phone program provides assistance for underserved

For many people in the country and in the region, phone service is more like a luxury than a necessity. But with new programs being sponsored by both state and federal entities, some people who previously did not have phone service may be able to afford it now.

William Martin, of Demopolis, recently attended a convention for the Alabama Democratic Conference, where the guest speaker was Alabama Public Service Commissioner Susan Parker. Among other issues she addressed, Parker talked about ways to make telephone service a reality for certain qualified recipients.

The first program is called Link-up, and it is a program partially funded by federal taxes levied on phone bills that allow participants to get up to a 50 percent discount on the cost of installing service.

Another program is called Lifeline, and offers discounts of up to half the monthly cost for telephone service each month.

&8220;I think these programs will definitely help,&8221; said Martin. &8220;I&8217;ve already had two of three people contact me about them.&8221;

Locally, Martin found that Pine Belt Wireless in Linden participates in the Lifeline program and other national companies such as Sprint participate in both programs.

People who qualify for the program are those who participate in Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Martin said the cost of phone service and even cell phone service are costly, leaving many people without a phone. But these programs should provide help with getting people connected.