| State of New Jersey
Department Of The Public Advocate
240 West State St.
P.O. Box 851
Trenton, NJ 08625-0851
Phone: (609) 826-5090 Fax: (609) 984-4747
|JON S. CORZINE
For Immediate Release:
August 31, 2007
|RONALD K. CHEN
For Further Information
Public Advocate Recommends Allowing More
NJ Residents Eligibility for Telephone Assistance
Newark, N.J. — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should adopt less stringent restrictions, especially for people with disabilities, on a program that helps low-income households afford basic telephone service, Public Advocate Ronald Chen said today. Chen recently filed comments with the FCC, recommending ways to improve the Lifeline and Link-Up America telephone service assistance programs.
“We are urging the FCC to adopt fewer restrictions of services to help people with disabilities," Chen said. "We also are advocating for higher eligibility limits because in a state like New Jersey, where the cost of living is very high, many people with higher income levels simply cannot afford even basic telephone service."
The Public Advocate’s Division of Rate Counsel comments are in response to a request for input on modifications to the FCC’s Joint Board proposal for the two federal programs. Lifeline is a program provided via authorized local telephone companies (Verizon in New Jersey) that offer reductions in the monthly fee for telephone service. Link-Up offers reductions in charges to start service. Eligibility for both programs is based on a consumer’s income or participation in other assistance programs such as the Supplemental Security Income Program, Food Stamps, Medicaid and Pharmaceutical Assistance for the Aged and Disabled.
The figures for the number of people registered for Lifeline and Link-Up have been deemed proprietary by Verizon N.J. Poverty figures for New Jersey in 2004 showed that over 1.7 million, one fifth of the state’s population, lived in true poverty: defined as 200 percent of the 2004 federal poverty level or an annual income below $30,438 for a family of three.
Chen noted the following additional recommendations were included in the comments:
· Automatic enrollment for eligible customers through state agency/telephone company partnerships and programs, such as NJ-SHARES/Verizon-NJ.
· On-line verification of eligibility status to curtail an overly burdensome application and re-certification process.
· Support for the addition of two additional public assistance programs (Temporary Aid To Needy Families "TANF" and the National School Free Lunch Program "NSL"), as qualifying programs to establish eligibility under the Lifeline Program.
The comments are available on the Department and the Division of Rate Counsel’s website at http://www.njpublicadvocate.gov. and http://www.state.nj.us/rpa/.
The Division of Rate Counsel is a division within the Department of the Public Advocate and represents the interests of consumers of electric, natural gas, water/sewer and telecommunications and cable TV service. Additional information on this and other utility matters can be found at the Division’s website at http://www.state.nj.us/rpa/. The Department of the Public Advocate website is http://www.njpublicadvocate.gov.