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Federal Lifeline internet and telephone discount program overview


>>On behalf of the Centers of Medicare
and Medicaid Services, the administration for Community Living, and the Indian Health
Service, I would like to welcome everyone to the Long-Term Services
and Supports webinar series. My name is Julie Cahoon [assumed spelling]. And I work for Kaufman and Associates. I will be the moderator for today’s webinar. Before we begin, I’d like to highlight the
main features of your webinar interface. First, is the main window where
you see the PowerPoint slides. To the bottom right of the
window is the Q&A pod. You can enter a question for our
presenters at any time in the Q&A pod. The Q&A session will take
place after the presentation. Above the Q&A pod is the files pod. You can download a copy of today’s presentation
slide set by clicking on the file name and then clicking download in the files pod. If you need technical assistance
during the webinar, please enter your tech support
question in the Q&A pod. Our tech support staff will be monitoring
these questions throughout the webinar. And will work to answer your tech
support questions right away. You’ll receive an answer in the Q&A pod. Finally, please be aware that
today’s webinar is being recorded. And that the recording will be made available
online in the near future on cms.gov. With those announcements made, I’d like
to welcome everyone to today’s webinar. Today’s webinar is titled
Federal Lifeline Internet and Telephone Discount Program Overview. Our presenters today are Jessica
Zufolo, the Senior Advisor for Strategic Partners at Lifeline. Kevin Risser, the Program Analyst
for Operations at Lifeline. And Leah Sorini, Communications
Associate at Lifeline. I will now turn it over to Jessica to
provide an introduction to today’s topic.>>Thank you so much, Julie. And thank you all for being
with us on today’s webinar. I very much appreciate it. On behalf of the Federal Lifeline Program. I’m joined by my two other colleagues,
as you saw listed on, on the slide. I want to say good morning to many of you. And good afternoon to many of you. I very much appreciate everybody’s
participation in today’s webinar. We are very excited to have a chance to speak
with you all about the Federal Lifeline Program. And it’s terrific benefits to low income
consumers and elders in Indian country across all 56 states and territories. I’m joined here by my two colleagues, Kevin
Risser and Leah Sorini, who work very closely with me in all of the work we do
with our stakeholders nationally. And specifically, with federal
agency partners like CMS, as well as the Administration
for Children and Families. I have moved the slides to slide number four. And I want to talk a little bit about who
we are because many of you may not know. [Inaudible] I will discuss some of the
program details about what we do here in the Federal Lifeline Program,
the application process, as well as the Federal National Verifier,
which is a new paradigm that we are required to implement across all 56
states and territories to enhance the eligibility
verification experience for all nine million consumers
in this program today. And then, we’re going to talk about how we
want to work in partnership with all of you. Leah and Kevin will also
explain how we are doing this. And hopefully generate questions and
really terrific thoughtful discussion as to how we can jointly work
together to provide connectivity to, to our nation’s low-income consumers and elders. So, I’m going to talk now about who we are at the Federal Universal
Service Administrative Company. Essentially, we are a non for profit that administers four separate
programs that are managed. We manage it. The rules are established by the
Federal Communications Commission. We administer all these program that total
combined amount to roughly 10 billion dollars in Federal subsidies annually
nationwide every year. The Universal Service concept was really born
out of really the [inaudible] to Congress to bring universal connectivity,
regardless of distance and density across the United States and in Indian country. So, the Federal Universal Service Fund
is essentially a fund that exists, as the second bullet says on the slide, to
ensure that all Americans and all people across this country, as well as Alaska, Hawaii
and the territories have access to quality and affordable telecommunications connectivity. Broadband, voice, video and do so a
high quality and affordable manner. So, we’re really thrilled to
have a chance to speak with all of you today about who we are at USAC. And how we can partner with all of you going
forward, as we really try to fulfil the mandate that Congress has bestowed on us. USAC has been in existence
since, back since the 1990’s. The Lifeline Program actually started
in the 1980’s under President Reagan. So, it’s got a long history to it. And being a really important tool in the
toolbox of advocates, as well as consumers. So, on slide seven is the mission
of what we do here at USAC. We administer four programs,
as I just had mentioned. The four programs are the Connect
America Fund, which is a four point, about 4.2-billion-dollar subsidy that is
directed to help our nation’s rural independent and corporative telecommunications companies, as
well as tribally owned telecom companies build out broadband in the most remote, rural,
high cost areas of the United States. A very important program. It’s the way in which ultimately broadband
networks are built in rural America. And then, today we’re going to talk about the
Federal Lifeline program, which is a subsidy that offsets the costs phone service and
internet service for low income consumers, both in tribal and non-tribal areas. The Rural Healthcare Program is a
500-million-dollar subsidy program that is dedicated to support internet
connectivity to rural hospitals, rural clinics, as well as skilled nursing facilities
to facilitate [inaudible] health and other internet-based
healthcare delivery mechanisms. And then, finally, the Schools and
Libraries Program, which is known as E-Rate. And that program is about a four point,
about 4.2-billion-dollar program annually that offsets the costs of internet connectivity
for our nation’s schools and libraries in all 56 states, as well as native nations. Slide eight is a bit about our program, which we’re really excited again
to speak to all of you about. And I’m thrilled that we have such a
tremendous participation on the bridge today. The Lifeline Program is a monthly discount off
of one’s broadband or voice or bundled offering. It is really the only program of
this kind to offer this level of, of a support for our nation’s distressed,
economically distressed consumers. Roughly nine million households
are in this program today. And of the nine million consumers
who receive the Lifeline discount, roughly 274 thousand of them
are tribal households. So, we wanted to highlight that
because we often get asked, well, of the nine million, how many are native? And it’s sad to see that we don’t have as
high participation among native populations and native consumers as we had liked. So, that is why we really wanted to
spend some time with all of you today to really give you an overview of how this
program works, the contours of what we’re doing with the Lifeline National Eligibility Verifier. And how we can do a better
job collectively to make sure that more native consumers are receiving
a subsidy that they all qualify for. Eligible consumers, who quality for the subsidy. And I’ll explain the eligibility process. Are. Receive up to. Receive nine dollars and 25 cents
off of their phone or internet or bundled service bill per month. So, again, the service can be
used for their home internet, for their home phone number
or for their mobile phone. Now, for tribal consumers. Those who live in, live on tribal lands receive
up to 34 dollars and 25 cents per month. So, it’s very robust level of subsidy
for those living in native communities. Now, I’m going to talk in more
detail on slide 10 about the program. Just to provide a little
bit more of a finer point. The subsidy goes to. Again, to reiterate, home phone,
home internet or your mobile phone or a bundled offering on the smart phone. And we know that a lot of native consumers
that live in very, very remote communities, which is in a lot of cases, have
not access to internet whatsoever. There’s no connectivity. We totally understand that. So, we can talk about that. But this is really an opportunity
to help bridge that gap. And, and really help all of you identify where
service might even be available in the areas that you interact with, with native consumers. On slide 11 is the qualifications
to receive the benefit. So, all you need to do is when you apply is,
is demonstrate eligibility in one of these. So, to be eligible for the program, you
have to show that you’re either eligible to receive Medicaid, SNAP, SSI,
Federal Public Housing Assistance, which also includes Indian housing, Veterans,
the Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit. Or you can show that you are, that you are
eligible based on being at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline. On slide 12 is an important
slide for, I think, all of you, which is the eligibility criteria specific
to those who are living in native communities and qualifies for federal support beyond
the list that I just showed you on slide 11. So, you can also qualify based on showing that
you are getting general assistance support, tribal TTANF, tribal Head Start,
or food distribution support. And let me reiterate, you don’t have to
be eligible for all of them, just one. Either one on slide 12 or. I’m sorry. One or. Either one on slide 11 or 12. You don’t have to qualify for all. But typically, when we’re talking about
economically distressed customers, they tend to qualify for many of these anyway. But I just wanted to make sure folks know that. Now, I will talk a bit about
the application process. And how the program rules work. So, the benefit is available to the
customer who can document their eligibly. That’s very important. And many of you know who
work for federal agencies that that documentation is extremely important
because that is what we are audited against. So, when GAO and other’s in Congress
ask how this program is being maintained to the upmost integrity, we must maintain and require the eligibility
documentation from the consumers. That’s really, you know, the point
of credibility in many cases. The benefit is only permitted for, per
one independent economic household. So, that is a house, that is a unit where
costs are ultimately shared in a home. And we can drill down into that a bit further. However, I will tell you that if you live in a
nursing home, or you live in a homeless shelter, or you live in a situation with
roommates, that, those are the exceptions. Because you’re not sharing a
household expenses, if you will. So, or you’re living, or you’re a,
you know, in a VA medical facility. You definitely can be multiple
Lifeline beneficiaries under one roof. And a very important piece is
that the customer must recertify that they are eligible every year. It’s really important. I want to stress that. I want people to really circle that
if you’ve printed out these slides. Because what we’re learning is that there
are so many consumers in Indian country that are eligible and then
they forget to recertify. And we lose them. We don’t want to see that anymore. So, I’d love to, you know, at the Q&A session
talk about how can work together on that. The application process is
a [inaudible] on slide 15, is that the customer must gather
their eligibility documents. So, a letter from any of the benefits programs
that I listed on slide 11 or 12 that document that they’re eligible for one
of them is very, very important. Then, the customer can then
choose who their provider is. If they, if they either go online at
their library or at their home or can look up that we have a tool called companies near
me, where they can type in, you know, I live, I live here, or I live somewhere. And they can see who is serving them. They can also call our customer service
center, which is a 1-800 number. And we know, again, numerous
consumers do not have internet access. So, that’s why we have a customer
support number available for all of them. And, and then, the telephone provider in that area will then help the
customer through the application process. So, then, to receive the benefit, the company, the phone company that is selected will tell
the customer that their either, you know, that all their documents were
cleared and they’re eligible. And they’re now enrolled. And then, the customer will then begin to receive the discount off the
phone bill on a monthly basis. So, all told, that takes, you know, that
could take, that could move super quick like within a week, maybe a couple of days. It doesn’t even have to be that long. And that’s our goal is to make it
as quick and painless as possible. On slide 16 is the companies near me tool. So, if you put in the zip code or you just
say, you know, I’m at a certain location, like, you know, I live at Window Rock, or I live, you
know, Coleville, or I live, you know, somewhere, that’s all or something you
can put it right there. And then, you press search. And it’ll show you the providers in that area. And so, this is on slide 17 is an example
where we put in the zip code of the area where the Mississippi Choctaw is located. And we sure enough found the phone
numbers for the providers in that area, kind of service they’re offering, where they
are, so that the customer can call them and say, hey, I am, you know, I want Lifeline. I want Lifeline subsidies off my, my bill. And, you know, I want, I want
to talk to you about that. Slide 18. My colleague, Kevin, is an
expert in the recertification stage. And I’ll turn it over to him.>>Thanks. We, we referenced the National Verifier
a few times in this presentation. But we want talk about this,
this new project that USAC and the Lifeline Program are in the process of. Oh, excuse me. I’m [inaudible]. Looking at slide 18, the
annual recertification process. So, to maintain the Lifeline benefit, consumers
must recertify their eligibility each year. So, the phone company or USAC
will send reminders to consumers about the upcoming recertifications window. And this is to ensure that consumers
can maintain their eligibility for the Lifeline benefit. It’s very important to call out here that if consumers do not
recertify their enrollment status, they will lose their benefits. And this is a, something that we really want
to stress that this is an annual process that subscribers can expect to
go through every single year. It’s very, very simple to complete. But if it is not completed on time, they
will be de-enrolled from the program. So, any assistance that can be, that
we can receive from service providers or company members to ensure that the
information that members are receiving about their Lifeline benefits,
that they’re acting on it. Will enable more consumers that are eligible for
this benefit to retain that benefit [inaudible].>>Yeah, this is very important, folks. Slide 18 is very, very important. So, we just want to make
sure that you print it out. Because we’re running into some
interesting challenges out there in getting people re, recertified. Because they’re just not doing it. And it’s for a variety of reasons. The very displaced population
sometimes things are difficult to keep track of this customer base. And I think many of the people on the
phone would agree with me given your, given your [inaudible] to Medicaid
and other federal benefits. So, moving to slide 20. We’re going to talk now about the, the
Lifeline National Eligibility Verifier. So, let me give you a little
bit of background on this. So, because we run this program of nine
million Lifeline low income consumers. Traditionally, since the
program’s inception, the industry, the phone companies were responsible for
verifying the eligibly of these consumers. And because the Federal Communications
Commission oversees the rules and we are the back-office
administrator, they determined in 2016 that the eligibility verification
responsibility would be shifting from the industry away from the industry. And would be bestowed on us here at USAC. We. Because we are a neutral
third party, you know, entity whose fiduciary responsibilities entirely
focus on the consumer and program integrity. We are now in the process of coming up
with systems and new ways of business, new business processes to very the
eligibility of nine million people. So, that’s where we also wanted to
bring this to your attention as well. Because it’s a huge, massive mandate. And we are struggling. But also succeeding and learning
how to do things differently and being extraordinarily
consumer basing in our work. But also, agency basing as well. So, the National Verify essentially
is nothing more than a platform to determine the customer’s
eligibility in a real time fashion. And also, conduct the annual
recertification, as Kevin just said. So, as a result of that, Kevin, Leah, myself
and the whole team here are partnering closely with our state, human service agencies,
federal agencies, like CMS, BIA, ACF. And others that intersect with these
programs and these consumers as well. As well as, tribal agencies. So, as to administer tribal
TANF, tribal Head Start and other tribal based public
assistance programs. Our goal is to leverage existing eligibly
data sources because I have no way of verifying the eligibility of the consumer
without checking a credible data source. So, for example, we are working closely
with the Data Assistance Group within CMS to somehow figure out a way to query that, the data source to determine whether
[inaudible] if I apply for Lifeline support. That’s in the, then, you know, the people
here, my team here sends a query as to whether or not I am indeed getting Medicaid. And the query is essentially
coming back a yes/no basis. So, [inaudible] has substantial levels of PII. We already have. We have substantial PII on all nine million
consumers, including tribal consumers. We have their first name, last name,
date of birth, their last four digits of their social security number and/or
their tribal identification number. We have their address. So, we have a substantial amount of data. What I don’t have is whether or not
they’re receiving SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing, tribal TANF. I have no window into that whatsoever. Historically, the phone number,
the phone companies did that. Now, we have to do that. So, I want to make sure you’re aware of that. On slide 21, you can apply in, in two ways. And we know that, again, being cognizant
and sensitive to the fact that a lot of native consumers have no
internet access whatsoever, they can mail in their applications
to Lifeline Support Center. The address is on the left-hand
side of the page. If they want to upload it at
their library or their home, they can also do, visit the consumer portal. And go to techlifeline.org
and create an account. They can do it at their, at the
human services agency office as well if they don’t have internet. And so, those are the main ways of doing that. And then, we’ll, we will contact the
customer via email or by mail as well. On slide 22 is addressing. So, I’m going to turn it over to Kevin. And he will talk a little bit
about our addressing format.>>Consumers have several options
to show USAC where they live if the address cannot be
automatically validated. In the National Verifier web portal,
a consumer can drop a pin on a map that is available in the interface. Or they can also type in their
latitude and longitude coordinates. And these features have been added to
ensure that consumers who may not be able to have their address completely validated
by our system, are still able to indicate to us where they physically reside.>>Slide 23.>>Consumers can also mail in images to USAC
to show their address, which includes options such as a hand drawn document that
identifies the consumer’s home address by identifying the nearest crossroads
or mile markers, identifiable land mark and even distance between the locations. They can also send in a printed satellite
image from a mapping tool, like Google Maps, with a pin identifying the consumer’s residence
and the latitude and longitude coordinates. And our support agents can use that
information to apply it to their application. Here, we have a list of some of the
documentation that consumers can mail in to USAC to show their address. You’ll see that we try to provide as
many options as possible to the consumer, so that they have a, there’s a variety of ways in which they can confirm
to us what their address is.>>Right. So, this is a list of all the, the ways in which the customer can prove
their address to the Lifeline Program. Again, this is a federal requirement. So, if the folks on the [inaudible] have any
ideas as to how we can do this more intuitively, a little bit more sensitively, we
would love to get your thoughts. We’re trying very hard to figure out ways to
help native consumers, who may not even have, in most cases don’t have a
physical mailing address. So, we’re very aware of that in our
discussions with native nations. Here, on slide 25 is an overview
of the Lifeline National Verifier. And where we have launched the Verifier. So, the states. On the top of the page, we
have conducted hard launch. Which means that phone companies in most
states are required to use the Verifier system. They’re required to do so. And it’s basically check
the customer’s eligibly. And the web, sort of the web interface that
you’re looking at on the right-hand side of the page is what comes up for the
consumer, for the customer to determine whether or not their state is in the
National Verifier or not. And we have soft launched in, in the states
that are listed at the bottom half of the page, which means that it’s an optional, it’s
an optional function for phone companies. What that means by optional is that they are not
required, but we strongly encourage them to go into the system, try it, check
it out, give us some feedback. Let us know what they think about it. And iterate and see if it’s working. And if there’s any challenges that we need to
be addressing, in terms of their [inaudible], their usability of our verification system. We are launching. The FCC has required us to, to basically check
eligibility for all consumers in all 56 states and territories and tribal
nations by the end of this year. So, it’s a very big undertaking. And we’re doing everything we can to
do it in a sensitive, thoughtful way. The benefits of the Verifier
are the following on slide 26. Is that the customer can find out very
fast whether they are eligible or not. If it’s. You know, like within minutes. That really helps the displaced customer
stay engaged, stay focused, stay, you know, feel that they are being
serviced in a respectful way. It also lowers the administrative
cost of, of just this program. And really helps, we think, manage
and reduce the consumer phone bill. That fund all four USF programs. The Federal Universal Service Fund is funded
through, through end users’ surcharges. So, when you see the Universal
Service Connectivity charge on your phone bill, that is collected by us. It is mandated by the FCC. We collect it and then we distribute
it into programs like this. So, it’s not just going into
the, you know, into the sky. It’s actually being used in
a very, very important way. The real time checks, the
real time checks that we do on the eligibility information
really helps us improve the data. And improve ultimately the
integrity of this program, so that we keep this program
going in [inaudible]. We currently, as I said earlier, are
pursuing a lot of federal data connections, like we have one with the Department of Housing
[inaudible] where we check all Federal Housing, Public [inaudible] housing clients
to determine their eligibility. We are in the process of developing and
finalizing a data agreement with CMS. And we’re really trying to get one with BIA. It’s been a challenge. But I welcome anyone’s help with that. We’ve had some very difficult times
trying to get through BIA to talk to them about the all-around, you know, benefits,
if you will, to BIA and to its customers, so we can figure out a way to
get them these benefits faster. And the way to do that is to ultimately
connect to the general list of [inaudible]. With next steps, I’m going to turn
it over to my colleague, Leah.>>So, USAC is working closely with our
remaining states, territories and federal and tribal partners to bring those states and
communities into the National Verifier in 2019. And something that I did want to mention
is that we also recently launched in Indiana, Kentucky and [inaudible]. So, we just recently had another launch embark. And we look forward to bringing the rest of the
states and territories in by the end of 2019. USAC is continuing discussions
with relevant federal partners to automate the verification
process for consumers. So, we are working to connect
more data bases to ensure that consumers have a quick eligibility decision
and are able to receive that decision as quickly as possible, so that they can start
receiving the Lifeline benefit. And USAC will continue to establish connections to available data sources
where it is cost effective. Again, to ensure that our consumers are
able to receive the benefit as easy, as easily as possible and that
it’s as accessible for them. So, we are continuing to partner
with tribal communities to identify where these opportunities to train tribal agency
caseworkers and other social service personnel to help tribal communities
access the Lifeline benefit. We really want to help social service
agencies and caseworkers that work with tribal communities act
as, act as a community that can help their clients
enroll in this program. And apply for the benefit. So, we also, we also want to work with agency
caseworkers and social service personnel to create a simplified application
experience, so consumers can sign up for Federal Benefit programs and
Lifeline support simultaneously. We know that the application process
can be burdensome for consumers, especially when they are trying to
apply for multiple federal programs. So, we really want to work with the other
federal programs that can act as and qualifiers for the Lifeline Program to
ensure that they have a simple, to ensure they have a simplified
enrollment process. And to ensure that they, again, able to
access the program in a quick and easy way. And so, we do welcome your ideas on how
to coordinate our application process to ensure that it is a simplified process. And to ensure that consumers are able
to apply for the benefit quickly. We are eager to hear your feedback
on what works and what doesn’t work. And we would love to continue
these conversations with you. So, here are some examples of how we can
work more closely with your communities. And again, these are some ways that we have
worked with tribal communities in the past. And we are open to hear what other
suggestions that you may have. So, some examples of how we have worked
with tribal communities is attend Powwows, community meetings, annual fairs,
workshops and other outreach events to increase awareness for the Lifeline benefit. We also, again, would like
to arrange discussions with tribe human service agency
directors and caseworkers. And lastly, schedule regular in person
targeted trainings and workshops, like this one, about the program. And about how you can apply and how
you can help your consumers apply.>>So, I’m, I wanted just to
follow, just some follow-up items. So, as Leah said, we really
want you to introduce us to your human service agency
directors, caseworkers. It’s very important for us. We’re really trying to intersect
with these folks. Because we think that they
are the best touch points. They are working with the
client the closest than anybody. So, to the extent we can help them
benefit, learn about the benefits program, train them with just some basics. So, that means that Leah,
Kevin and I are really thrilled to spend some time out anywhere in the field. In fact, Leah is speaking to a number
of native provider, telephone providers at the Mescalero Reservation in a couple of
weeks about the Federal Lifeline Program. So, we’re really thrilled to have a
chance to get out there and help those who directly interface with the client. And then, help us understand some of these
challenges that all of you are dealing with as federal program administrators and
people that administer federal benefits. But also, people that interface
with the clients as well. We know that internet connectivity,
phone connectivity is really hard. It’s costly. And so, we want to come up with ways to
learn from you on how we can do a better job. And really just help us increase
the awareness about this program. Because as you saw in the
beginning of the slide presentation, we have less than 274 thousand
people out of nine million who are native receiving this benefit. So, so, let us, help guide us in
how we can move those numbers. So, on slide 32 is our contact information. And we just are so thrilled for the
opportunity to spend this afternoon and this morning with many of you. And at this point, I can
open it up for questions. So, on behalf, just to say on behalf
of my colleagues here at USAC, we are just absolutely honored
and thrilled to have a chance to talk to you guys about this program.>>Great. So, we’ll go ahead and take this
time to shift over into our Q&A session. So, we have had a number of
questions come through the Q&A pod. And so, we’ll go ahead and address those now. So, to start. The first question that came in was about
where can Spanish language community materials be found?>>Leah will answer that.>>So, we have Spanish material on our website. On the Lifeline support website,
we have some Spanish material for consumers and for service providers. We have a brochure in Spanish
and a few other items. And then, also, the consumer portal has
the ability to be translated into Spanish. So, when you get to the consumer
portal, you have the option to go through it in Spanish or English.>>And I do want to follow-up. This is Kevin. I would like to follow-up
that any outreach that we send to a consumer will be sent
in both English and Spanish. And that includes any forms that we send. We send it both in English and
a Spanish version of that form. And our, any robo reminders that we send to
them are also sent in English and Spanish.>>Thank you.>>Next question.>>Great.>>So, the next one. This question came up during
Jessica and Kevin’s segment. Can multiple residents at a tribal nursing
home address, receive this benefit?>>Yeah. That’s a great question. In this case, yes, multiple residents at a
tribal nursing home can receive this benefit. These are individuals that are
living at the same address. But they are not sharing expenses. They’re not the same economic household. So, in this case, yes, individuals at a
tribal nursing home can receive this benefit.>>Okay. And the next question
is tied closely to that one. And it is. Are nursing home residents eligible if they
already have and pay for a personal smart phone?>>Yeah. That’s a great question. So, the answer to that is yes. And I do want to clarify that if
you’re currently receiving service from a phone provider, that
doesn’t impact whether or not you can still apply
for the Lifeline benefit. You would just need to confirm
whether or not your service, whether your telephone provider
offers the Lifeline benefit. And so, yes, nursing home residents
are eligible if they already have and pay for a personal smart phone.>>Okay. Great. The next question came up
during one of Leah’s segments. Is yearly eligibly based on a calendar year?>>So, yearly eligibility, which I think that
is in reference to the recertification process, is based on when the, when the consumer
received an eligibility decision from either USAC or the National Verifier. So, it’s not based on a calendar year. Rather, when they are successfully
enrolled in the Lifeline program.>>These are great questions. Keep it going.>>The next question is. Where is Arizona in the verification process?>>Hi, this is Jessica. We are working really, really hard to get
Arizona into the Lifeline National Verifier. I would say in the next, next quarter. I think we’re what? We’re in. This is our second quarter. So, I would say maybe third
quarter, end of third quarter. Don’t quote me on that. But we’re working actively with the
Arizona Department of Social Services to leverage their SNAP and Medicaid
database to verify the eligibility of all Arizona Lifeline subscribers. However, if you have any. Let me turn this back to the audience. I need help. I need help. I need help connecting to tribal databases. I’ve had a very, very difficult time trying. Because, you know, I really need to verify
the eligibility of native consumers. And some native communities and
native or nations have databases that include the information on
eligibility for tribal TANF consumers. So, for example, we have in
the past tried to coordinate with the Department of Self Reliance on Navaho. And they have a tribal TANF database. But because of the change in leadership
at Navaho, we don’t know who to talk to. I don’t have relationships there. Because we don’t know who to speak with. So, if you can help me connect with the
right people who are at the Department of Self Reliance, we would be able to verify
the eligibility of every single Navaho consumer in Arizona and New Mexico
if we were able to connect to that database somehow and verify everybody. So, I’ll just put that out
there for those who have asked.>>Okay. The next question is. In Alaska, they do not have tribal reservations. Do tribal citizens receive the 34.25 benefit?>>Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, my understanding is all, the
entire state of Alaska is deemed native. So, as a result, everyone in the state
of Alaska is eligible for the 34.25. Based on providing the eligibility
documentation. Yes.>>Okay. Is there an age
requirement for eligibility?>>Yeah. That’s a great question. Consumers under the age of 18 can. So, there’s no age limit. But there. Consumers under the age of 18 in
order to demonstrate eligibility for the Lifeline benefit would need to
show proof of emancipated minor status. So, individuals under the age
of 18 can receive this benefit. Again, they would just need to show
proof of emancipated minor status.>>But in terms of an age limit, no. Like you can be as old as you want.>>Okay. The next question
is for just reaffirming. Is this benefit only available for, for
native residents residing on reservations?>>No. The benefit is. The nine dollars and 25 cents is for those
who are not native and do not live on Indian, federally recognized tribal land. So, for those who are non-native it’s 9.25. For those who are native and live
on federally recognized tribal land, who qualify based on the criteria I
showed you guys on slide 11 and 12, they are eligible for 34.25 off of their
monthly phone and/or internet bill.>>And just for clarification. So, if a native residing in an urban area, they
would only be eligible for the 9.25 per month?>>That’s correct. That’s correct. That’s how the rules are. I hate to say that. But that is, that. Those are the rules set forth by the
Federal Communications Commission. So, that’s how they establish that rule.>>Okay. The next question is. Can we become certified to help
qualify our clients with this benefit?>>That’s a great question. At this time, we do not have a
certification process to assist consumers with enrollment in Lifeline benefit. Right now, the, the, the stakeholders
in this process that conduct that are the service, or
the telephone providers. But we would love to get your
support in making service. Or excuse me, making consumers
more aware of this benefit. And the individuals and the community
members that you work with aware that there, there are people in their communities
that may qualify for this benefit. So, there’s no formal certification
process at this time. But we would love for you to
be able to help us get the word out about this benefit in your community.>>Right. So, all of you are validators. All of you are community-based connectors. And we need your help in carrying
out the message, as Kevin said. So, there’s no certification, right? You don’t need it. We just need you to, you know,
participated in webinars like this. And, you know, share information with us. Share your. Please give us your contact information and
vice versa, so we can just stay in touch. And help jointly to these clients.>>Okay. And the next question is. How often is the information under
the companies for me updated?>>So, we update that pretty regularly. We just have service providers let us
know what areas they do and do not cover. And then, we update it as often as possible
when we get that information from them.>>And the next question is. How can this information be shared during a,
within a native community through a health fair? Is there a communication packet
available that folks can request?>>Yeah. Sure. Absolutely. We’ll get you anything you need. We will properly and, you
know, really try to make sure that you get everything you
need for health fairs. Leah handles all of our communications,
all of our documents, all of our brochures, your key talking points. I’m sure, you know. We’ll get you anything you need. You just tell us.>>Okay. The next question is. Is the nine dollars and 25 cents the maximum
discount no matter the carrier unrelated to tribal lands?>>Yeah. So, yes. Disregarding the tribal benefit,
which is more, which is 34.25. The, the, the like count. Excuse me. The Lifeline discount is 9.25. That is the standard discount
that is applied to all subscribers in all 50 states and six territories. But again, we do have the
tribal benefit, which is 34.25.>>Right. And those are levels that are set
by the Federal Communications Commission, not. We don’t have control over that. We just administer it. But, you know, it’s a, it’s always
a source of criticism of the kind of support being made available, you know, social service benefits are sometimes
not always popular among some. And so, it is the level that’s
been set by the FCC. If there are stakeholders that
have views on that, you know, we encourage you to share that with the FCC.>>Okay. Another question is. If the consumer is delayed in getting approval
from a telephone provider for several months, can the assistance be back credited or refunded?>>That’s a great question. Unfortunately, the assistance is going
to be applied the actual telephone bill. So, that refund would be something
that would be administered by the service provider in question. However, I will say, though, that if you
have a consumer, or if there’s a consumer that is concerned about not getting
a response from the service provider, or telephone provider while they’re
trying to enroll in the program, please reach out to the Lifeline Support Center. And we can assist in resolving that issue
for them to ensure that they are getting that benefit after they have
been deemed eligible.>>Right. So, again, if the
provider is not providing the service or being responsive to the
customer, let us know.>>Okay. Another question is. Are there any special provisions
in the application process for survivors of domestic violence?>>That’s a great question. And I think this is being asked in the context
of certain privacy or identity considerations. And this is a scenario that I,
myself, have assisted with before. If this is a situation that has, does
come up for one of your constituents, please reach out to the Lifeline Support Center. And we can accommodate these
specific needs of an applicant. This is something that we can accommodate
through the Lifeline Support Center.>>Okay. Great. Can you discuss assistance differences between the primary territory telephone provider
compared to the lesser assistance available through other providers in the area?>>I don’t quite understand the question. So, what I will say is that if, if
a phone company is in a service area and they’re not providing Lifeline
services, please let us know. Typically, what happens is the
phone company must enroll or apply, if you will, to participate in this program. But any service provider that’s in your area
chances are they are providing a Lifeline, they’re participating in this program. So, if that is not happening for
any of your clients, let us know.>>Okay. The next question is. Do applicants require proof of
income or just program eligibility, i.e. proof they are already receiving SNAP?>>Yes. So, either, right? You don’t. As I said on slide 11 and 12, you just have
to show, demonstrate eligibility either through income eligibility
threshold, as I had explained, at 135 percent of the federal
poverty guidelines. Or any of the eligibility programs I showed you. SNAP, Medicaid, SSI. Not all of them. All you have to do is show us that
you’re eligible in one of them.>>Okay. And the next question
is a little bit similar. Can a parent who has a child on Medicaid
be eligible for the Lifeline service?>>That’s a great question. And yes, this is what we consider
to be a benefit qualifying person. And in this case, that parent who has a child on Medicaid would be eligible
for the Lifeline service. So, the answer to this question is yes.>>Okay. The next question is. Are Washington and Texas working
on adopting the National Verifier? If so, with which agencies?>>Sure. We’re working with
agencies in both states. And they’re both a little different. And I. And I don’t want to go into too
much detail for everybody on this call. And I’m happy to kind of walk you through
those details if you reach out to me. Washington State, it’s the Washington
Department of, I think, Social Services. I don’t remember the name of the exact agency. But it’s the agency that
administers SNAP and Medicaid. In Texas, it’s a little different. Because in Texas, the Texas Public Utilities
Commission manages this process exclusively. And we just had some very recent
discussions with them in Austin about. My boss actually flew there and spent a
whole week last week in Austin talking to them about the National Verifier. So, I’m happy to give you those details offline.>>Okay. Great. The next question is. Are the individuals informed
about needing to recertify?>>That’s a great question. When a, when a consumer is required to recertify
their Lifeline benefit, they are outreached by USAC or their service provider in the mail. And they are sent a letter notifying them that
they do need to recertify their eligibility. And that they have a specific timeframe. And that that timeframe is indicated to
them in what is mailed to the consumer. USAC, through the recertification process that
it administers, also sends robo call reminders to consumers to remind them of the benefit. So, yes, there’s multiple points of outreach to
consumers when they are required to recertify.>>Okay. Great. The next questions is. Can you receive assistance with cell
phone and home internet at the same time?>>I’m sorry. Can you say that one more time?>>Can you receive assistance with cell
phone and home internet at the same time?>>No. You cannot. You either select home internet or. You either select, you know, fixed or mobile. You can’t have the subsidy apply to both
forms of communication that you’re receiving. So, mobile could be mobile, you
know, your, your, your mobile device, your mobile phone that is
potentially a smart phone and receiving voice and texts and so forth. Or your home internet. Or your home voice. But you can’t have a subsidy on all three. I hope that makes sense. It’s a little confusing for those who
may not be in the telephone industry. But you can have internet and
voice on your mobile device. You can also have your home internet. But you can’t have it on
multiple, multiple modalities.>>Okay. And the next question is. What do you mean when you
refer to tribal databases?>>Sure. I think that’s an outstanding question. So, like states human services agencies that
oversee the distribution and management of SNAP and TANF and Medicaid, tribal governments also,
not many, but some have databases themselves that include the eligibly information
of all of the clients that live on, in Indian country in their
native community for those that receive public TANF,
tribal Head Start, etcetera. So, when I’m referring to a tribal database,
what I mean is going to a native nation and working with their human services agency
to develop a computer matching agreement to get that native nation into the National Verifier. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish.>>Okay. So, we have time
for just one last question. And then, we’ll take closing remarks.>>Okay.>>And the next question is. Do you have any influence with companies
like AT&T to bring Lifeline benefits back if they have cancelled it in a specific region?>>I have. We have no influence over
the industry whatsoever. And I will say a couple of
things about the dynamics. This is a program that serves
low income consumers. So, it’s very difficult sometimes to really rally the industry to,
to meet the, meet the challenge. And provide service at a discount. These are consumers that are
not considered profitable, you know, if you’re a corporation, right? Or an entity that’s, that’s seeking
to deliver and generate return. So, we oversee the distribution of the
benefit and we manage the, all the programs, operational elements of this program. We. The only level of influence we have is
that if a company seeks to provide the benefit, you know, we have a relationship with them. So, we try to, you know,
oversee their practices. But we are not a regulatory body. So, we don’t have any, you
know, we have no recourse. Other than to stay on top of the
provider to say, hey, what are you doing? But that’s if they’re providing the benefit. Now, not all carriers are
providing the benefits. Certainly, not. Most cable operators are not. And there’s a number of other
entities that are not. So, so, the FCC has the oversight function
that they can execute if this is what, if any concerns are brought to
their attention with respect to a phone comp, a specific phone company.>>Okay. So, those are all the
questions that we’ll take today. Jessica, before we close out, are there
any other last remarks you’d like to make?>>Sure. I just want to thank everybody. And I really encourage you to reach out to Leah,
Kevin and myself for the questions or concerns. We’ve received quite a bit of, really
good questions on today’s webinar. We’re always available to have more
targeted webinars for your agencies, your offices in, in your respective regions. This is just a high-level overview. But very, very important for all
of you to know about this program because it’s not fully being
utilized in a lot of areas. And it’s out there. And, you know, we, we’ll do
everything possible to partner with you to bring connectivity to native communities.>>Excellent. Thank you. I’d like to thank Jessica, Kevin and Leah
for joining us today and sharing information about the Lifeline benefits program. In closing, I’d like to remind everyone
that today’s webinar was recorded. And that the audio and presentation slides
will be made available online at cms.gov on the tribal LTSS Technical
Assistance Center website. Thank you for, again, for
joining today’s webinar. Our session has now concluded.

Robin Kshlerin

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