How to Get a Government Phone

••• cell phone image by Marek Kosmal from

The government is not giving away free cell phones, contrary to popular mythology. Subsidized phone service has been available to low-income individuals since 1984, and this program was recently updated to include cell phone minutes. The actual cell phones are shipped to your home free of charge by TracFone Wireless. The free cell phone minutes vary from state to state. For example, residents of the District of Columbia are given 55 minutes while those in Louisiana receive 250 minutes. Eligibility requirements also vary from state to state, with some states requiring that you be enrolled in a public assistance programs such as SSI, Medicaid, food stamps, etc., while others provide the service to households at 150 percent of the poverty level. For example, a three-member household with a combined income of $2,289 a month would qualify.

Determine if the program is offered in your state. Go to the Safelink website; enter your zip code and click “Go." You will be taken to the state information page. Whether or not the program is available in your state is indicated at the top of the page. If your state participates in the program, scroll down and click on “Benefits/Open” to see how many minutes are provided. Click on “Qualify/Open” to determine how you can qualify. Click on “Applying/Open” for information on applying by fax or regular mail. If you believe you qualify for the program, scroll back to the middle of the page and click the large “Apply” button.

Fill out the application on the following page. You will be asked for your name, a valid mailing address, any phone number you may already have, your birth date, and the last four numbers of your Social Security number. Check any boxes of government assistance programs listed that you are enrolled in. When you have completed this form, click “Next” at the bottom of the screen, which will take you to the confirmation and signature page.

Write down and retain the confirmation ID number that appears at the top of the next page. You will need this number to check on the status of your application. Print off the signature page, and sign and mail or fax it to the address indicated.

If your state allows you to qualify based on income instead of participation in a government assistance program, you will be required to provide either copies of four months of pay stubs, a letter from your employer, the previous year’s tax return, or your employer W-2 form.


  • You can call Safelink to request a hard copy of the application at 1-800-977-3768, or contact them by mail: Safelink PO Box 220009 Milwaukie, OR, 97269-0009.


  • Safelink warns that the information you provide will be verified against public records.