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MSHDA Launches New Social Media Push to Promote Lifeline Discounts Available to Low-Income Telephone Customers

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Awareness effort comes during state's Summit on Ending Homelessness in Michigan

GAYLORD, Mich., Sept. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) announced today a new effort that will utilize social media to help promote awareness about the Lifeline discount telephone service available to low-income customers in Michigan.

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The announcement came during the seventh annual Summit on Ending Homelessness in Michigan that concludes tomorrow in Gaylord. The event is the largest of its kind in the nation and brings together more than 300 experts and policymakers on efforts to reduce homelessness by eliminating unnecessary regulatory barriers and promoting new policies that are making quality housing more affordable and accessible.

"According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), at least half of the telephone customers who are eligible for the Lifeline program do not take advantage of the monthly discounts available to them," said Sally Harrison, director of the Rental Assistance and Homeless Solutions division for MSHDA.

"We must do better. Lifeline helps ensure that eligible consumers have the opportunities and security that phone service brings, including being able to connect to jobs, family, and emergency services," Harrison said. "We'll do everything we can, including utilizing new media, to help our clients learn about the valuable benefits this program offers."   

MSHDA and members of the Michigan Campaign to End Homelessness will join with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to inform potential beneficiaries about the discount telephone service that's available to low-income customers in Michigan. MSHDA's effort to grow awareness about Lifeline will include traditional and new media outlets, including posts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

"Lifeline telephone service discounts are substantial, adding up to $148 a year for certain customers," noted MPSC Chairman John D. Quackenbush.  "The Michigan Public Service Commission encourages low-income telephone customers to apply for the Lifeline program by contacting their local telephone or wireless provider to apply."

To qualify for Lifeline in Michigan, the customer's household income must be at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, or the customer must participate in one of the following assistance programs:  Medicaid; food stamps; supplemental security income (SSI); federal public housing assistance (Section 8); the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); the national school free lunch program; or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

All landline telephone service providers and some wireless telephone service providers offer Lifeline discounts in Michigan.  Rules permit one discount per household.

The FCC recently implemented comprehensive reforms to modernize the program and reduce burdens on carriers by establishing a uniform, interim flat rate of reimbursement, allowing carriers to obtain a subscriber's signature electronically and streamlining enrollment through uniform, nationwide eligibility criteria.  These reforms – and others -- are expected to save at least $200 million in 2012.

The MPSC's Lifeline consumer tips sheet reflects the latest changes to the program, including income guidelines and other details. More information is also available on the federal Lifeline website: lifeline.gov.

Michigan's Campaign to End Homelessness, launched in 2006, is a statewide effort to ensure safe and stable housing for all state residents, one individual and one family at a time. The Campaign emphasizes cooperation and collaboration by more than 600 partner agencies and by the workers and volunteers at these organizations. The Campaign's coordinated efforts and greater attention to data have enabled local agencies to make informed decisions about the use of resources. The Campaign focuses on preventing homelessness or, when that's not possible, quickly finding housing solutions, while addressing the issues that led to the individual's or family's housing crisis. 

A Campaign report released May 16, 2012, shows there were 6,143 fewer Michigan residents who were homeless for any part of 2011 than who were homeless during 2010. A total of 94,033 people were homeless in Michigan sometime in 2011, according to CTEH data. That was down from 100,176 in 2010. All of the figures are from the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), which is used in communities across Michigan to track the numbers of homeless individuals and the services that they receive.  HMIS was developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for nationwide use.

The 6 percent reduction between 2010 and 2011 is strong evidence that the Campaign's strategies of prevention and rapid re-housing are helping individuals and families find and sustain stable places to live, Harrison said.

"Local agencies throughout Michigan have been extremely successful in reducing homelessness in their communities in large part because of the focus on rapid re-housing," Harrison said, referring to the strategy of quickly finding longer-term housing solutions, rather than simply relying on shelters.

"Across Michigan, we've seen how the work of community organizations has been crucial in ending homelessness for thousands of individuals and families."

About MSHDA

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) provides financial and technical assistance through public and private partnerships to create and preserve decent, affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents and to engage in community economic development activities to revitalize urban and rural communities.*

*MSHDA's loans and operating expenses are financed through the sale of tax-exempt and taxable bonds as well as notes to private investors, not from state tax revenues. Proceeds are loaned at below-market interest rates to developers of rental housing, and help fund mortgages and home improvement loans. MSHDA also administers several federal housing programs. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/mshda.

SOURCE Michigan State Housing Development Authority



RELATED LINKS
http://www.michigan.gov/mshda

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