With so much of our work force making wages below the poverty line this information should be helpful to a broad swath of Americana. Because even with the ACA two weeks of illness means not only lost wages for those two weeks but in most cases a loss of employment.
Many that are already poor already know much about these methods and, in some cases, programs to help us stay connected. Even though the largest obstacle to connectivity isn't really the devices or methods but the fact we are a permanent underclass forced to beg for help at every turn to get our basic needs met. This alienates friends and family and is part of the cycle of poverty that leads to so many homeless with no where to turn because they have been asking for help for years in some cases in order to maintain their home, clothing, vehicle, children...
Lifeline provides discounts on monthly telephone service (wireline or wireless) for eligible consumers. These discounts are currently set at $9.25 per month. Federal rules prohibit eligible low-income consumers from receiving more than ONE Lifeline service per household. That is, eligible low-income consumers may receive a Lifeline discount on either a wireline or a wireless service, but may not receive a Lifeline discount on both services at the same time. Additionally, only ONE Lifeline service may be obtained per household. "Household" is defined as any individual or group of individuals who live together at the same address as one economic unit. An "economic unit" is defined as "all adult individuals contributing to and sharing in the income and expenses of a household." Lifeline support is available to eligible low-income consumers living in group living facilities. Lifeline applicants may demonstrate when initially enrolling in the program that any other Lifeline recipients residing at their residential address are part of a separate household.It is good to have a phone, but if you are like me at the bottom of the pile it will rarely ring except for bill collectors and robo calls. And with the ten dollar limit I have experienced being on hold with Social Security for over an hour only to run out of minutes mid call thus not only not being able to complete my task but unable to communicate until my next month came up. Many social service agencies leave the poor on hold for extended periods making limited minutes an extra stress on poor families. Because apparently our time is not important. Also internet access from these phones is at last century speeds which means the pages time out before they load.
"Burn" phones are the next option and are a slightly more effective way to maintain communications.
Companies such as Tracfone and Virgin make phones that are able to connect to the internet, usually reconditioned, and make calls and send texts. Their pricing can vary with use. On the great side there is no contract so if the choice is eating or paying for the phone you will not be penalized beyond losing connectivity. On the down side you are paying premium prices because as a poor person we lack negotiating power. But those prices are still much lower than many contracted phones simply because of the extra charges that the contract companies are permitted to load on a monthly bill. One could theoretically complete a multi stage job application on one of these phones if they are patient enough to wait for the pages to load. And you happen to not have coverage drop mid application.
Many communities have libraries and community centers with some limited internet access. The average seems to be an hour a day. Not much time if one is looking for housing or work making the effort to get to these computers questionable for many. There is also the requirement that one have a library card for that system to use those computers. If one is homeless the requisite bills proving residence are not going to be available.
The next option is a tablet device of sorts, kindles, iPads and other lower cost devices that allow some internet features at speeds that allow someone to complete a task in a reasonable amount of time. These items although inexpensive to the middle class are cost prohibitive to the poor as well as easily targeted for theft and damaged easily. Lap tops are also less egregiously priced but have the same drawbacks regarding damage and theft. Especially to the vulnerable poor.
Now one has a device getting connected is not as easy as it seems. One could use coffee houses and other public houses to gain internet access but one needs to have funds for whatever product that location is selling. There is also the issue of the homeless being ostracized to the point they are not allowed the use of these public houses. But if you can afford it and can pass the caste system appearance standards these venues are preferable. Some local libraries and community centers have internet as well but one needs to also have a library card to gain access.
This is the number one reason why homeless ask to borrow a phone, because their battery has died and there is no infrastructure available to allow them to recharge their phone. When one is homeless going to a public house is a challenge because of social forces as well as economic barriers. Going to a cafe and buying one small coffee or other low cost menu item and then hooking up to the electric as soon as you sit down is socially oppressive in this nation of poor blamers. Someone will say something and in some cases the staff will ask you to leave. Going to the library or community center to charge your phone or other device can sometimes be an option if the electric terminals are not locked to prevent charging. So it is no wonder that being homeless is synonymous with carrying a brick for a phone.
Trying to "get a job" with these conditions is not as easy as it seems.