The "Lifeline" program started under Reagan to help poor rural Americans gain phone access to emergency services, but since cell phones were added in 2008 the cost has dramatically increased.
"The cost has gone from $143 million a few years ago to $2.2 billion today," said Republican Louisiana Sen. David Vitter.
The phone subsidy is supposed to be available only to Americans on Medicaid, food stamps, or welfare. But Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, is concerned that the phone program is being promoted to people too wealthy to qualify:
"I got solicitation for a free phone at my apartment, which is certainly not a building where you're going to have people who are qualified for free phones...There is clearly money being wasted here."
The top 5 phone companies didn't verify the eligibility of 41% of people who received phones last year, the FCC reports. The rules have since been changed forcing cell companies to prove eligibility of each applicant.
The program doesn't actually provide free phones - it provides a $9.25/month subsidy for phone bills. Phone companies will usually provide free phones in order to receive the monthly subsidy.
Sen. McCaskill claims the program has got so bloated that the only solution is to scrap it and start from scratch. But beneficiariessay the phones help poor people to find work.
The phones are often referred to as "Obamaphones," though Obama did not start the program, as Fox News points out.
Via Fox News.