Push in Washington to cut free phone program

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKYT) - It's a program that gives people in need phones, and it's come under fire in Congress. Just recently, there's been a push to cut the Federal Lifeline Program.

The program has been giving discounted phone service to low-income families for the last 28 years. What started under President Reagan, expanded under President Bush, and is now under the administration of President Obama.

"I got solicitation for a free phone at my apartment, which is certainly not in a building where you're gonna have people who are qualified for free phones," explained Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, "there is clearly money being wasted here."

Lawmakers critical of the program, including Central Kentucky Congressman Andy Barr, say it's now out of control.

"The beneficiaries of this program are getting 5, 10, and sometimes even 20 cell phones at a time and trading them and even selling them. And I think, really this is a matter of fairness for the millions of Americans who work hard, pay for their own cell phone, and shouldn't expect their hard earned taxes to be wasted on a government program that frankly doesn't work," Rep. Barr claimed.

Phone company customers are paying for the program. A portion of each phone bill goes toward Lifeline. In Kentucky, low-income families signed up for it get up to a $12.75 discount each month.

"This is really not about 911 service. It's not about emergencies. What's happening is that these cell phones are being used for everyday purposes and that isn't in keeping with the original intent of the program," said Rep. Barr.

The Public Service Commission of Kentucky couldn't give us the exact number of people in the state registered for the program. All information and registration is handled through individual carriers like AT&T and Verizon.

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