The Lifeline program is now available to people receiving FEMA assistance.

People receiving federal disaster assistance related to the Maui fires can now enroll in Lifeline, a federal program that lowers the cost of phone and internet service for those in need.

The Federal Communications Commission has temporarily waived some eligibility rules to help people affected by the Maui fires to qualify for the program, according to Hawaii U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. The program is normally available only to qualifying low-income consumers.

“People lost their cell phones, and people lost their ability to pay,” Schatz said in an interview Saturday. “As people try to put their lives back together, whether its coordinating school or looking for a new job or trying to draw down benefits, you need a phone.”

Some participating Lifeline program carriers offer free phones and free service, while other carriers offer discounts on fixed or mobile voice or high-speed Internet access service.

The basic Lifeline benefit for qualified applicants is a monthly discount of $9.25 on Lifeline-supported broadband internet access service, or a $5.25 monthly discount on Lifeline-supported voice service.

More information including how to enroll is available at  Applicants will need to provide documentation that they are receiving individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individuals and Households Program.

Schatz thanked the FCC for moving quickly to provide relief for Maui residents. The FCC previously waived some of the requirements for Lifeline to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he said.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a written statement that the temporary adjustments to the Lifeline program “are meant to ensure the people of Hawai‘i can stay connected while on the path to recovery.  I thank Senator Schatz and the Hawai‘i delegation more broadly for working with us to make this change happen.”

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