U.S. Senators David Vitter (R-La.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) have introduced legislation to end the welfare subsidy for mobile phone service in the Lifeline Program. The legislation was first introduced in the House of Representatives in 2011 by U.S. Congressman Tim Griffin (AR-02) and again this Congress. Vitter introduced this legislation as an amendment to the Senate budget resolution in March. The amendment failed 46-to-53. Click here to see the vote results.
“This phone program has expanded far beyond its original intent, and as so many middle class Americans struggle underneath this economy, it is really offensive for Washington to make taxpayers pay for free cell phones for others,” Vitter said.
“As with many federal government programs, the lack of proper oversight gives room for programs such as Lifeline to grow into a costly problem riddled with fraud and abuse,” Inhofe said. “It is unfortunate when these programs become so expansive that it no longer addresses its primary mission to help those with the most dire needs. Our legislation will restore Lifeline to its original intent and also protect taxpayers from further excessive government spending.”
The Lifeline Program was created in 1984 to expand landline services for low-income households through the Universal Service Fund (USF). The program supporting mobile phones was expanded in 2008 to include wireless service providers. The program has grown from $143 million in 2008 to $2.2 billion in 2012.