(KMOV) -- When cell phone users pay their bills, they might overlook that little charge called the "universal service fund fee." That money adds up, and the government is expected to dole out $1.2 billion for free phone service to low-income people, including residents from Illinois and Missouri.
SafeLink, a company created by TracFone, is behind the deal. The SafeLink Web site has a disclaimer telling people that the service is not paid for by taxpayers. However, if you pay your cell phone bill, you're paying for it.
Irene Flannery of the Federal Communications Commission said that TracFone has been receiving government payouts since last 2009. It's all part of the federal Lifeline program that started back in the 1980s. At the time, it applied to landlines, but today, Missouri and Illinois residents who receive food stamps or federal housing assistance are eligible for discounted, or even free cell phone plans.
Missouri residents can receive 68 free minutes a month, and in Illinois can get 60.
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