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Telephone assistance program helps residents “Stay Connected”

Staying connected to local telephone services can improve and possibly save many lives, especially in these tough times, say state regulators.

Gov. Gregoire has signed a proclamation declaring Sept. 10-16 Washington Telephone Assistance Awareness Week, to promote the telephone rate discounts that help residents maintain access to basic phone service.

The week is part of a national effort sponsored by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA).

“Access to local emergency services and community resources is vital to all state residents,” says Jeff Goltz, chairman of the UTC. “We want low-income and elderly residents to ‘stay connected’ and are reaching out to those who need phone service but can’t afford it.”

Residents who participate in or are eligible for certain public-assistance programs, such as Food Assistance or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) from the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), are entitled to receive local telephone service for about $8 per month plus taxes and fees. WTAP also provides a reduced or no-cost service installation for qualifying households that do not currently have telephone service.

To apply for WTAP benefits contact your local landline telephone company and provide your DSHS client identification number.

For more information on the WTAP program, contact DSHS at 1-888-700-8880 or www.dshs.wa.gov.

If you have problems signing up for WTAP benefits, call the UTC at 1-888-333-WUTC (9882) or visit www.utc.wa.gov/consumer.

The UTC is the state agency in charge of regulating the rates and services of telephone companies operating in Washington.

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