FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 28, 2009
SCHUMER URGES FCC TO REVIEW DECISION AND CLARIFY RULE THAT PREVENTS EXTENDED CARE CENTER RESIDENTS FROM ACCESSING DISCOUNTED PHONE SERVICE
Government-Backed Lifeline Phone Service For Low Income Individuals Only Available to One Consumer Per Household
Extended Care Resident In Yonkers Denied Lifeline Service Because Multi-Residency Center Mistakenly Classified as One Address
In Letter, Schumer Urges FCC to Review Decision, Provide Service to Residents of Care Center, And Clarify Rule To Ensure Those Living in A Multi-Residency Center Have Access To Program
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer wrote to the Federal Communication Commission urging them to review a decision to prevent a resident of the Regency Extended Care Center in Yonkers, NY from enrolling in the Lifeline Assistance phone service program. The resident was denied a subscription to Lifeline-- a discounted or free telephone service based on income-eligibility-- because Lifeline is only able to enroll one consumer per household address. Despite the fact that the Care Center houses multiple residencies, the nursing home residents have been shut out of the telephone service because the nursing home has been mistakenly classified as one address. Schumer also asked the FCC to clarify to the providers of the Lifeline program that current federal rules allows residents of multi-residency buildings – even if residents do not have their own apartments and therefore share an address – to sign up for government sponsored phone service. The resident from the Regency Extended Care Center applied for service through SafeLink Wireless, a provider of the Lifeline service. Lifeline provides funding for either a cellular phone or a land based phone line.
Today, in an effort to provide the residents at the Regency Extended Care Center, and organizations like it across New York State, access to the Lifeline service, Senator Schumer wrote to the FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski urging him to immediately review the decision.
“This is a classic example of a bureaucratic misunderstanding getting in the way of a successful program,” said Schumer. “Lifeline service is only available to one consumer per household but the Extended Care Center in Yonkers, which houses multiple people, is being mistakenly identified as a single home. I believe that once the FCC reviews this situation they will recognize the mistake and allow residents in group homes to apply for the service. I also urge them to clarify that group homes of this sort are not excluded under the program.”
Lifeline Wireless service is available to income eligible households through a U.S. government supported program. The Lifeline Wireless service provides eligible low-income households a free cell phone and mobile access to emergency services.
For elderly individuals who need to remain in close contact with family members and emergency services personnel, Lifeline is an important resource to consumers who cannot afford cellular telephone service. Unfortunately, a bureaucratic mishap has prevented some residents at extended care centers and group homes from accessing the cellular telephone service, despite the fact that these residents should be permitted to take part.
To ensure that all eligible applicants receive the Lifeline service, Schumer wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Genachowski urging him to review the circumstances surrounding the care center, reconsider the decision to deny service to its residents, and actively work to ensure that other residents of multi-family homes are not shut out of the program.
Schumer noted that telephone service is considered a necessity for daily modern life, yet the cost of starting and maintaining such service may be too high for some consumers. Under Congressional mandate, the federal Universal Service Fund (USF) supports the Lifeline Assistance program. These programs provide discounts on basic monthly service and initial installation or activation fees for telephone service at the primary residence to income-eligible consumers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with the help of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), administers the USF.
In his letter, Senator Schumer wrote, “While I appreciate that Lifeline is a public service that is subjected to funding constraints…I believe that the denial of a nursing home resident was made in error. I ask that FCC look at the circumstances surrounding the Regency Extended Care Center in Yonkers, as well as any other instances of residents of buildings with multiple households.”
July 28, 2009
Dear Chairman Genachowski:
I write to request that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expeditiously review the denial of a resident of Yonkers, NY to enroll in the TracFone prepaid cellular telephone service’s SafeLink Wireless program. At least one resident of the Regency Extended Care Center in Yonkers was denied a subscription to the SafeLink-- a discounted or free telephone service based on income-eligiblity-- because SafeLink is only able to enroll one consumer per household address. This is problematic because the Regency Extended Care Center, which is a nursing home, houses multiple residencies. I ask that FCC review what I believe to be an error in denying SafeLink service.
SafeLink is an important resource to consumers who cannot afford cellular telephone service. In a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on the ability to communicate quickly, it is important that low-income consumers are not denied access to telecommunications technology. Cellular telephones are important tools that help consumers, especially those that are elderly, remain in close contact with family members and emergency services personnel.
While I appreciate that SafeLink is a public service that is subjected to funding constraints, and therefore only one subscription is awarded per household, I believe that the denial of a nursing home resident was made in error. I ask that FCC look at the circumstances surrounding the Regency Extended Care Center in Yonkers, as well as any other instances of residents of buildings with multiple households, so that we can ensure no one is denied access to cellular telephone service.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact my Washington, DC office at 202-224-6542.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator