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.Hey, cell phones are a convenience, no question. But necessity?
Growth in the program is fed by the 2008 decision to extend it to prepaid cellphone companies, which get up to $10 every month that someone is subscribed. The number of cellphone companies offering the service in Ohio grew from four in 2011 to nine currently, with seven more awaiting approval from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
Advocates for the poor say this growth is to be expected; eligibility is dependent on having a low income or being in a program such as food stamps or heating assistance, and that population is ballooning, they say.
“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.Yes, I have 250 minutes of emergencies a month. Don't you?