The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

September 10, 2013

PUC offers Lifeline for low-income residents

Patrick Buchnowski

JOHNSTOWN — Need a telephone?

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is reaching out to you.

PUC Commissioner Pam Witmer is looking for low-income residents to participate in Lifeline, a program that offers discounts on monthly phone bills.

“In today’s increasingly connected world, telecommunication services provide a vital lifeline to connect families and friends and vital emergency services,” Witmer said. “No Pennsylvanian should be left out just because they do not have a telephone.”

Witmer spoke to a gathering Tuesday at the Head Start Center on Broad Street as part of “Lifeline Awareness Week.”

Representatives from the PUC, Pennsylvania Telephone Association (PTA), state Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA) and Verizon spoke about the need to educate people about Lifeline and other programs that help consumers pay phone bills.

More than half a million Pennsylvania residents tapped into the 12-year-old Lifeline program in 2012 alone, Witmer said.

“One phone per household is the (goal) we’re hitting,” PTA representative Steve Samara said.

He said PTA is trying to cut down on fraud to make sure eligible residents are connected.

“People who are eligible and need to be on the service should be on the service,” he said.

Those who participate in Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), the Free Lunch Program, Head Start or are below 135 percent of the federal Poverty Guidelines are eligible.

Monthly discounts on phone bills through Lifeline average $9.25.

“Lifeline provides crucial financial assistance so no one is without a telephone,” Witmer said.

For more information about Lifeline, contact the PUC at 1-800-692-7380 or log on at

The event was sponsored by the PUC and the Community Action Partnership of Cambria County.

Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

Telephone assistance

2013 income guidlines for Lifeline:

Household size          135 percent of poverty levels

          1                                      $15,512

          2                                     $20,939

          3                                     $26,366

          4                                     $31,793

Each additional person: $5,427

Source: Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission