California LifeLine

California LifeLine provides discounted home phone and cell phone services to qualified households. Only one California LifeLine discounted phone is allowed per household (except for teletypewriter users and for Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program participants). The California LifeLine discounts can only be for the individual’s primary residence. An individual can only have one primary residence.

Each household must choose to get the discount either on a home phone or on a cell phone, but not on both. Households cannot get the discount from multiple phone companies. Households that do not follow the one discounted service per household rule will lose their discounts, and may be prosecuted by the U.S. government. Receiving multiple discounted phone services violates the California LifeLine Program’s rules.

Penalties for violating the California LifeLine Program’s rules can include imprisonment, losing the discounts, monetary fines, and being banned from the California LifeLine Program. The California LifeLine Program can also seek repayment of the discounts that should not have been received.

The 2nd core limitation requires a consumer who submitted an enrollment request, in an attempt to receive California LifeLine wireless telephone services, to wait a maximum of 30 days to submit another enrollment request to another service provider. This restricts consumers’ ability to submit enrollment requests for California LifeLine wireless telephone services. The 30-day clock for the enrollment request freeze duration starts when the California LifeLine Administrator (Administrator) generates an application packet for a consumer or confirms that the request is an inter-carrier transfer request. The CPUC adopted three types of activities that would stop the enrollment request freeze duration, which are as follows:

New Limitations Effective June 1, 2017

Beginning June 1, 2017, the California LifeLine Program (California LifeLine) has two core limitations on consumers requesting California LifeLine discounted telephone service. In Decision 1701032, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted these two new limitations to comply with Assembly Bill 2570, authored by California State Assembly Member Bill Quirk, which became state law in Public Utilities Code Section 878.5. Please go to,, and to learn more.

Core Limitation #1 = 60 Day Discount Transfer Freeze for Telephone Service

The 1st core limitation requires a California LifeLine participant (participant) to remain with the same California LifeLine service provider for at least 60 days. The 60-day clock begins ticking when the California LifeLine discounts start. Completion of the discount transfer freeze duration or an approved exception to the discount transfer freeze enables the participant to transfer the California LifeLine discounts to a different California LifeLine service provider. Transferring the California LifeLine discounts to a different California LifeLine service provider restarts the 60-day clock.

The CPUC also adopted five exceptions to allow a participant to transfer the California LifeLine discounts sooner. The five types of exceptions are as follows:

  1.  A California LifeLine participant changes residential address;
  2.  A California LifeLine service provider imposes late fees for non-payment related to the supported service(s) greater than or equal to the monthly end-user charge for service;
  3.  A California LifeLine service provider ceases operation or otherwise fails to provide service;
  4.  An eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) who is also a California LifeLine service provider is found to be in violation of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) rules during the benefit year, and the participant is impacted by such violation; and
  5.  A California LifeLine service provider is found to be in violation of one or more of the CPUC’s or the California LifeLine Program’s rules, and the California LifeLine participant was impacted by such violation.

Nevertheless, a participant can cancel his/her phone service or switch phone companies at any time. However, if the participant is subject to the 60-day discount transfer freeze and cancels the phone service or switches phone companies, then the consumer will stop receiving the California LifeLine discounts.

Core Limitation #2 = 30 Day Enrollment Request Freeze for Wireless Telephone Service

  1.  The Administrator sends the final eligibility decision to the consumer;
  2.  The consumer or California LifeLine service provider cancels the enrollment request; and
  3.  30 days have passed since the Administrator generated the application packet or confirmed that the request is an inter-carrier transfer request.

As soon as one of these three activities occurs, the 30-day clock stops for the particular enrollment request. The consumer may then submit another enrollment request for California LifeLine wireless telephone services. A consumer cannot have multiple enrollment requests for California LifeLine wireless telephone services going at the same time.

How to Cancel an Enrollment Request

A consumer can independently cancel an enrollment request by contacting the Administrator. The phone company can also cancel an enrollment request.

How to Request an Exception to the 60-Day Discount Transfer Freeze Because the California LifeLine Service Provider Fails to Provide the Phone Service

Each California LifeLine participant is entitled to a voice-grade connection. Before requesting a service failure exception, the participant should immediately inform her/his phone company of the service failure to allow the phone company to try and resolve the service failure.

Examples of what would NOT constitute as a failure to provide service:
    a) Another California LifeLine service provider is offering a better telephone device. If the telephone device works and the service has coverage where needed, then a “better” telephone device should not be considered a service failure.
    b) The participant wants an upgrade of the telephone device provided by the California LifeLine service provider.
    c) The participant breaks or otherwise damages the telephone device provided by the California LifeLine service provider, which renders the telephone device as non-operable.
    d) The participant’s dissatisfaction with the feature(s) of the service, the service rate(s), or the quality of customer service.
    e) The participant loses the telephone device provided by the California LifeLine service provider.
    f) The telephone device provided by the California LifeLine service provider was stolen.
    g) The participant lacks understanding or knowledge to utilize the telephone device provided by the California LifeLine service provider.
    h) Confusion by the participant about the telephone service plan.

A participant can contact the Administrator to request an exception to the 60-day discount transfer freeze if a California LifeLine service provider fails to provide the California LifeLine discounted phone service. The Administrator will then determine whether it is appropriate to start the exception order.

The participant has four main responsibilities to receive an approval for the service failure exception:                              

  1. give the existing California LifeLine service provider an opportunity to resolve the service failure
  2.  order an exception from the Administrator
  3.  after the service provider’s opportunity lapses to resolve the service failure, confirm that the service failure still exists – the participant has one week to submit this confirmation
  4.  contact a different California LifeLine service provider and ask to receive telephone service – afterwards the participant’s preferred service provider will submit the transfer request on behalf of the participant to the Administrator.

How to Contact the Administrator

Consumers can contact the Administrator by phone or going online at For the Administrator’s phone numbers, go to California LifeLine Contacts.

Types of Discounts Available

Discounted residential telephone services available to California LifeLine participants may include the following:

  • Monthly flat rate service discount = up to $13.75*
  • Monthly measured rate service discount = up to $13.75*
  • Monthly cell phone service discount = $5.75 or $13.75**
  • Service connection discount = up to $39
  • Service conversion discount for home phone services = up to $39
  • Exempt from paying the public purpose program surcharges, CPUC’s user fee, federal excise tax, local franchise taxes, and State 911 tax associated with their telephone service.
  • Discounts on two telephone lines for teletypewriter (TTY) users and Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program participants are allowed. The person who uses a TTY must have immediate and continuous access to it. If the Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program did not give the TTY, a COPY of a medical certificate indicating the person’s need for a TTY is required to receive the discount on the second home phone line.

*Does not account for Extended Area Service rates, which provides a higher level of support.

**For cell phone plans with 501 to 999 voice minutes, which may include domestic messaging or text, the monthly discount is $5.75.

**For cell phone plans with at least 1,000 voice minutes, which may include domestic messaging or text, the monthly discount is $13.75.


Is California LifeLine Right For You?

There are two ways to qualify for the California LifeLine Program. You may qualify for California LifeLine via Program-Based OR Income-Based. Documentation of proof of eligibility is required. Submit COPIES of proof of eligibility with the completed and signed application. Make sure that your signature is very clear and legible.

1) Program-Based Qualification Method:

You can qualify for California LifeLine if you or another person in your household is enrolled in any one of these qualifying public assistance programs:

  • Medicaid/Medi-Cal
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance or Section 8
  • CalFresh, Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC)
  • National School Lunch Program (NSL)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
    • 1. California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs)
    • 2. Stanislaus County Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (StanWORKs)
    • 3. Welfare-to-Work (WTW)
    • 4. Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN)
  • Tribal TANF
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Head Start Income Eligible (Tribal Only)
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Federal Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit Program

2) Income-Based Qualification Method:

You can qualify for California LifeLine if your household's total annual gross income is at or less than these annual income limits:

LifeLine Income Guidelines

LifeLine Income Guidelines*

Household Size

Annual Income Limit







Each Additional Member


* Effective June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018

Documentation is required to show your household’s total annual gross income meets the annual income limits if you are qualifying by Income-Based. A household’s total annual gross income consists of money received BEFORE TAXES by everyone in your household (adults and children), from whatever source derived, whether taxable or non-taxable, including, but not limited to: wages, salaries, interest, dividends, alimony and child support, grants, gifts, allowances, stipends, lottery winnings, inheritances, worker’s compensation, unemployment and public assistance benefits, social security payments, pensions, rental income, income from self-employment, and cash payments from other sources, and all employment-related, non-cash income.

Application Process

Application Process


Beginning July 1, 2009, new applicants for the California LifeLine Program must be approved before the California LifeLine discounts are received. If you apply to be in California LifeLine, you will pay the regular rates for basic home phone service until your application is approved. Please be sure to ask the telephone company what they are so you will be aware of these rates and fees.

To help you pay the up-front costs of establishing your home phone service like the service installation/connection fee, service conversion fee, and deposits, you can request to be on an interest-free payment plan. This will spread out your payments in more manageable amounts while you wait for your eligibility to be approved for California LifeLine. Payment plans can vary between the different home phone companies.

After being approved by the California LifeLine Administrator you will be refunded the difference between the regular rates and the California LifeLine discounted rates for any applicable monthly service charges, service installation/connection fee, service conversion fee, and deposits for basic home phone service.

You will receive a bill credit with the California LifeLine discounts retroactive to the date your service began or the date you requested to be enrolled, whichever is later. If your bill has a net credit balance of $10.00 or more, you may request a refund check from your home phone company. Otherwise, the refund will just be a credit on your account.


Annual Renewal Process

(For current California LifeLine participants only.)

Annual Renewal

California LifeLine requires all existing California LifeLine customers to renew their participation on an annual basis. Each year, on the consumer’s anniversary date, current participants will receive a California LifeLine renewal form with a PIN number in a PINK envelope.

Consumers can simply go online to renew her/his participation at If a consumer does not renew their participation in California LifeLine, then they will be dropped from the program and lose his/her California LifeLine discounts. Regular home phone rates for basic service will then be charged.  



  • Identification card from a qualifying public assistance program
  • Notice of eligibility or decision letter of participation from a qualifying public assistance program
  • Front page only of prior year’s state (540, 540A, 540 2EZ, 540NR, or 540X), federal (1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040NR, 1040NR-EZ, 1040SS, or 1040X), or tribal tax return
  • Income statements or paycheck stubs for 3 consecutive months within the past 12 months
  • Statement of benefits from Social Security, Veterans Administration, retirement/pension, Unemployment Compensation, and/or Workmen’s Compensation
  • Alimony and/or child support documents
  • Other official documents.


Whether a consumer applies online OR fills out and mails the signed and completed form, he/she must respond by the due date. Consumers can find the due date on the application and renewal forms.

  • If the consumer submits an incomplete application or renewal form, the consumer will receive a new form.
  • If the consumer lost their PIN, they can call the California LifeLine Administrator to retrieve it.
  • If the consumer needs new forms, they can call the California LifeLine Administrator for a replacement.


  • The consumer does not return the form or register online by the due date.
  • The form is incomplete.
  • The consumer is found to be ineligible for California Lifeline.
  • The form is incorrect (and is not considered correctible).
  • The consumer did not provide the appropriate documents to prove eligibility.
  • The person signing up was claimed on someone else’s income tax return as a dependent.
  • The consumer was already receiving the California LifeLine discount, and was not eligible for a second phone line with the California LifeLine discount.
  • The form did not have the consumer’s signature.


  • Not receiving the discounts.
  • Paying regular rates for basic home phone service.
  • The consumer may be required to pay a service deposit.
  • Interest may be charged.
  • The consumer can still reapply and go through the application process again. The process will start over, and the consumer will have to pay a service conversion fee.
  • The consumer can also appeal a denial or disqualification by calling the CPUC’s Consumer Affairs Branch at 1-800-649-7570.





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