Recent Census Bureau report indicates U.S. poverty rate at highest in 15 years with 40 million people below the poverty level

September 29, 2010

WARREN, N.J. (BUSINESS WIRE), September 29, 2010 - At a time when it seems that prices are increasing, quantities are decreasing, and people are still struggling to make ends meet, Assurance Wireless is providing a hand to those who need help. Assurance Wireless, a cell phone service from Virgin Mobile that provides a free wireless phone and free wireless service to eligible low-income customers, has increased the number of minutes it provides from 200 to 250 voice minutes per month. Customers currently using Assurance Wireless will automatically start receiving 50 additional minutes beginning September 29.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that the percentage of Americans living in poverty increased by 14.3 percent in 2009, marking the highest rate of poverty in 15 years. An additional 4 million Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, bringing the total to nearly 44 million. Lifeline assistance programs like Assurance Wireless are crucial to keeping individuals connected to potential employers, medical providers and child care, while reducing monthly expenses.

“Programs like Assurance Wireless are so important for helping individuals and families stay on, or get back on, their feet and deal with these difficult financial times,” explains business columnist and personal finance expert Louis Barajas.

“People need to be connected if for no other reason than to be able to apply for and land jobs, and studies have shown that nearly a third of those working say their cell phone has helped them earn money, find work or generate new customers,” said Grace Boehm, director for Assurance Wireless. “Assurance Wireless is currently available to eligible low income customers in eleven states, and we are always working toward expanding availability of this important program. Applications are pending in a number of states to permit Assurance Wireless to provide service.”

Assurance Wireless commissioned a survey to learn how and when Americans use their cell phones. The survey revealed that adults, regardless of household incomes (ranging from below $25,000 to more than $75,000), are equally as likely to use their mobile phones for employment searches. Eight of 10 Americans reported feeling dependent on their cell phones and using their mobile phones to stay in contact with family and seek help in case of emergencies.

In addition to providing a free handset, free voice mail account and call waiting, Assurance Wireless also features caller ID and access to 911 in case of an emergency. Beyond the free 250 voice minutes, customers can pay for additional 10-cent-per-minute domestic calling, 10-cent text, e-mail or instant messages (sent or received); international calling at competitive rates, and more.

Although eligibility varies by state, customers eligible for Assurance Wireless generally include those who participate in Medicaid, Food Stamps/SNAP, Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA/TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), or the National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program. Customers may also qualify based on low household income.

About Assurance Wireless

Assurance Wireless, one of Sprint’s prepaid brands, is supported by the Lifeline Assistance program, part of the Low Income Program of the federal Universal Service Fund (USF), which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), and designed to ensure that quality telecommunications services are available to low-income customers at reasonable and affordable rates. Assurance Wireless uses the Nationwide Sprint Network which reaches more than 275 million people.

To learn more about Assurance Wireless, including eligibility requirements, please call toll-free 800-395-2171 or visit Information is available in English and Spanish.

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About Sprint Nextel

Sprint Nextel offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services bringing the freedom of mobility to consumers, businesses and government users. Sprint Nextel served more than 48.1 million customers at the end of the second quarter of 2010 and is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying innovative technologies, including the first wireless 4G service from a national carrier in the United States; offering industry-leading mobile data services, leading prepaid brands including Virgin Mobile USA, Boost Mobile, Common Cents Mobile and Assurance Wireless; instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone. With its customer-focused strategy, you can learn more and visit Sprint at or and

Note: sources for all information and statistics are available upon request

*PKS Research Partners was commissioned by Sprint/Nextel (Assurance Wireless) to conduct a research project among a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults 25 years or older, in order to determine their attitudes toward and usage of mobile phones.




Assurance Wireless
Jack Pflanz
Leilani Geller