Lawmaker looks to rein in program after free cell phones sent to dead people

The cost of the program has tripled to $2.2 billion in 2012 from $819 million in 2008. The risk of abuse has also risen. “This program is completely ridiculous and it speaks to the point that we are careless with taxpayer dollars,” Rep. Tim Griffin of Arkansas said.

Dead people don’t need cell phones.

That’s the message Rep. Tim Griffin of Arkansas wants to send Congress, after he says a controversial government-backed program that helps provide phones to low-income Americans ended up sending mobiles to the dead relatives of his constituents. Griffin has introduced a bill that targets the phone hand-out program, which has ballooned into a fiscal headache for the government.

“This program demands reform,” Griffin told on Monday. “There is a lot of waste in it and we need to be asking ourselves, ‘Where do we draw the line? Do we give everybody an iPad next? A computer? Is that the role the federal government should be playing?’”

Griffin said the story of dead relatives receiving cell phones was relayed to him by constituents. He added: “I’ve also gotten calls from people who say their employees were bragging about having 10 phones.”

The program in question provides limited phone service to people on government assistance. Ideally, Griffin says he would like to get rid of the program created in the mid-80s altogether, but he knows he lacks the support to kill it — and instead is asking Congress to scale it back. Griffin’s plan would get rid of the cell phones and provide only landline service and phones.


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