WASHINGTON, D.C. - Seeking answers to how and why the federal government subsidizes free cell phones for millions of Americans, U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) today wrote Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski asking for details about the FCC’s “Lifeline” program.
Recent reports show expenditures for the Lifeline program have nearly tripled in the last four years, going from $819 million in 2008 to more than $2.2 billion in 2012. Additionally, a Wall Street Journal story last month revealed a large percentage of Lifeline participants have been proven to be ineligible, prompting Rep. Roby to find the reasons behind such poor stewardship of federal dollars.
“The FCC failed to impose a verification process to ensure the eligibility of program participants until last year,” Rep. Roby writes. “In a time when federal spending of all types is under serious scrutiny, these reports are cause for serious concern.”
Of particular interest to Rep. Roby is finding out how many Lifeline beneficiaries receive services directly as a result of their participation in other federal assistance programs, such as:
· Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps
· Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
· Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
· Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
· Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
· and the National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program.
This isn’t the first time Rep. Roby has scrutinized mandatory spending programs for their stewardship of taxpayer dollars. Last year, while crafting the Farm Bill in the House Committee on Agriculture, Rep. Roby was successful in securing language in the bill to ensure SNAP benefits, or food stamps, weren’t directed toward non-U.S. citizens.
“Our government ensures a safety net our citizens who are truly in need of assistance during hard times, “ Rep. Roby said. “But at a time when our budgets are already being squeezed, we must ensure that these precious dollars are going toward those who truly need it the most.”
Rep. Roby is an original co-sponsor of Rep. Tim Griffin’s bill that would eliminate the wireless component of the Lifeline program, while keeping the land line service, the original intent of the program, intact. She said the continued struggle to reduce the deficit plus the recent reports of more abuse within the Lifeline program prompted her to ask more questions.
“I look forward to receiving the Commissioner’s response so we can know how to remedy the problem.”