How to Get Help With a Phone Bill

Ever since Alexander Graham Bell made his first successful call, telephone service has been a commodity with financial value. The boon this communication brought to the American economy cannot be calculated.

Nearly 150 years later, nearly every adult has their own phone and number. In fact, lacking a cell phone can make life more difficult to navigate. Yet the cost of maintaining service is beyond the reach of low-income and financially impoverished people.

Happily, there are federal and state agencies that offer financial aid to those who need help with phone bills. It is simply a matter of finding them, and luckily there are many.

How Much Does Phone Service Cost?

The price of keeping the cell phone on varies by phone and by the plan. Few doubt substantial differences between a flip phone and a smartphone, an Android and an iPhone. Some simple phones are not compatible with more elaborate plans. Phones can be 3G, 4G or, now, 5G, each representing advancing technology.

Meanwhile, different plans have different coverage areas, number of phones allowed, limits on time and allowances for internet access. Needless to say, there is not a uniform charge for telephone usage. That said, Consumer Reports conveys a price range between ​$60 and $240 per month​ for the most reliable plans.

How Can the U.S. Government Help with Phone Bills?

The federal government, through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), sponsors a program called Lifeline that assists low-income and financially needy households with telephone expenses, either landlines or cell phones. For over 35 years, Lifeline has provided phone bill assistance in every state, territory and possession.

In partnership with the Universal Service Administrative Company, Lifeline affords users reliable phone service at substantially lower rates, e.g. $9.25 monthly. Eligible candidates receive an income no higher than ​135 percent​ of the federal poverty line, and they should be beneficiaries of other government assistance like Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.

Do States Offer Similar Assistance?

Many U.S. states allocate funds for those who need help paying phone bills. New Jersey's Link-Up initiative dovetails with Lifeline by helping users set up landlines and purchase phones prior to service. Wisconsin also provides Link-In service to qualified residents, as do Texas and many other states. In addition, the state of Washington, while participating in Lifeline, allocates additional funds to focus on seniors and the physically or intellectually disabled.

Private Help Paying Phone Bill

There is also phone bill assistance from non-government entities. Churches and religious denominations, for instance, often retain funds with which mercy can be conveyed upon their communities and beyond. Catholic Charities, Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) and the Salvation Army are organizations that extend benevolence around the world. Each of these groups has regional and local offices to which needy people can visit.

Secular organizations, too, are available for contact. The United Way's 2-1-1 connection puts those who are short of funds in touch with the necessary resource providers. Websites like are also used to raise emergency funds.

Phone Bills and Life

Having trouble meeting a phone bill can reflect sudden unemployment or emergency expenses. At the same time, it can also be indicative of an inability to manage cash flow and household finances. Sometimes, a modest expense going unpaid reflects a need for financial education.

Consumer Credit Counseling Services and Operation Hope are two organizations that help people gain knowledge about financial income and outflow, borrowing and credit, as well as basic accounting and bookkeeping. Participants may find that the money was there all along.