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FCC Reforms Prompt Reduction in Telephone Assistance Benefits

July 27, 2012 (2012-010)

Contacts:  Susan Ackerman, Chair, 503 378-6611, Stephen Bloom, Commissioner, 503 378-6611, John Savage, Commissioner, 503 378-6611, Bob Valdez, Public Affairs Specialist, 503 378-8962
Salem, OR.  Approximately 60,000 customers enrolled in the Oregon Telephone Assistance Program (OTAP) program also known as Lifeline, will see their benefit reduced by 75 cents a month due to recent reforms enacted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this year. The FCC will provide $9.25 per month to customers instead of the $10 it currently provides, effective August 1. 2012.

“Oregon’s support remains unchanged at $3.50. So, along with the $9.25 from the FCC, the new total monthly support is $12.75 a month to help qualified Oregonians pay for basic telephone service” OTAP/Lifeline manager Jon Cray said. “I am working with our OTAP/Lifeline providers to ensure customers know about this change. We’ve also updated our OTAP/Lifeline application to reflect the new benefit amount.”

Some companies like Cricket in Oregon have voluntarily committed to providing an additional $0.75 “out of their own pockets” so the benefit may vary depending on a customers’ telephone provider. 
The OTAP program is part of the Residential Service Protection Fund (RSPF) created by the Oregon Legislature in 1987 to ensure that all Oregonians have access to adequate and affordable telephone service. OTAP is one of three programs offered by the RSPF at the Oregon Public Utility Commission.
Customers may qualify for OTAP/Lifeline if they participate in one of the following programs: 
  • Food Stamps / Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • National School Lunch Program; Free Lunch Program Only (NSLP)
  • Certain State Medical Programs or Certain Medicaid Programs at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Level

Funds for the program come from a $0.12 surcharge on the monthly retail bill of  customers who have telephone or cellular services.