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The DC Social Reader - Arkansas Congressman Wants to Disconnect $1 Billion Free Cell Phone Program

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By Alexis Levinson

No one likes paying cell phone bills. What if you could get a free phone with a calling plan whose cost was paid by the federal government? What if you could have eight free cell phones? You can, and people do, Rep. Tim Griffin told The Daily Caller. The annual bill runs over $1 billion, and he's trying to stop it.

The federal government started the Lifeline program to provide phones to low-income Americans. It originally provided only landlines, but cell phones were added several years ago.

"That's when the program absolutely exploded and has become a nightmare," Griffin said in a phone interview with TheDC. Calling it "Uncle Sam's unlimited plan," the Arkansas Republican has proposed a bill that would scale back the program to its original form: landlines only.

"People are not only getting [one free cell phone], they're getting multiples. There are reports of people getting 10, 20, 30 -- just routinely getting more than one, selling them, storing them up, whatever," Griffin said.

"And they're not just phones that are able to dial 911. They're smartphones. They're the type of phones that you and I pay hundreds of dollars a month to have contracts for."

Griffin said his constituents have told him about people abusing the government benefit.

"I had someone call me this morning telling me they had somebody who would only work a certain number of hours a week because if they worked too many hours a week then they couldn't get their government assistance. And that person has multiple cell phones, and gets them new every month with new minutes," he said, sounding outraged.


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