Aug 22, 2011 6:41 PM by Melissa Hawkes

Government Program Gives Away Free Cell Phones

For most it's easy to reach someone, just pick up the phone and call them, but there are some who can't afford to even have a phone. A government program, Wireless for Hope, is giving cell phones away for free in Lafayette Monday and Tuesday.

Resident Rosella Hopkins, said she's excited to be getting her cell phone.

"I didn't have one," Hopkins said. She said she used to have one, but she couldn't pay for the minutes.

Resident Kevin Goodbear said, "if you need an emergency, your stranded and can't call anybody. That's the toughest thing being without a phone."

Goodbear hasn't had a phone in quite a few years, he said being eligible to receive a free cell phone with 100 free minutes a month will help get back in touch with his family.

He said, "it's a wonderful thing."

The Wireless for Hope organization gives millions of people across the nation a cell phone at no cost. You have to already have some type of government assistance, like food stamps or medicaid to be eligible.

Spokesperson for Wireless for Hope, Justin Brewer, said it's designed to help people get back on their feet.

If you pay a phone bill, regardless if it's a cell phone or a land line, you help fund the program. It's called Universal Service Charge on your cell phone bill and it runs about 4 dollars a month in Louisiana.

Brewer said, "it goes into a pool that's run by Universal Service Administration Company, which then takes those funds and disperses them."

It's not a tax, Brewer said but rather a government fee.

Wireless for Hope has been helping people for decades and the company operates around the idea that communication is a basic right not a privilege.

Brewer said, "people focus on the abuse and maybe there is people in the system that don't have the exact need, but there's a lot if people who utilize it and appreciate the help and use it to improve their lives."

Hopkins said it's a big help to her.

You can go by the Lafayette Center for Aging on Industrial Boulevard or visit Gethsemane Church at 317 12th street in Lafayette from 9 to 5 tomorrow to see if you are eligible to get a phone.



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