A program that provides subsidized phone service to low-income individuals has nearly doubled in size in Ohio in the past year — now covering more than a million people. At the same time, federal officials say they’re reining in waste, fraud and abuse in the program…
“I am unable to have a cellphone and I need one for emergencies,” said Aliesa Azbill of Dayton, who is in a work training program at Community Action Partnership. She said the 250 free minutes she gets per month through SafeLink isn’t enough to use it for much more than emergencies.
She said it has come in helpful when her home phone has lost service or her 12-year-old daughter goes to the library and she wants her to be able to reach someone in an emergency since public phones have become rare.
Azbill heard about the phone program about six months ago from a friend, and has since told more people about it. Community Action Partnership outreach coordinator Deborah Ferguson said her anti-poverty agency tells people about the program because it helps them reach people when services or jobs become available.
Reforms to the program this year included a one-time crackdown that de-enrolled tens of thousands of people in Ohio found to have more than one phone. The program allows only one line per household; requires future applicants to prove they are eligible, instead of simply attesting to it on a form; and makes people re-enroll each year instead of doing so automatically.