One in three people enrolled in a government-subsidized phone program might not qualify for the service, with thousands of accounts belonging to either fake or dead people, according to a government audit released Thursday.
The oversight is costing taxpayers more than $100 million worth of improper payments per year, according to the audit by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan federal watchdog.
Created in the 1980s, the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program helps low-income people pay for phone and Internet service.
The federal government reimburses telecommunication companies that offer discounts to eligible subscribers through a fund made up of fees collected from consumers’ telephone bills.
Lifeline paid $1.5 billion in subsidies last year to more than 12 million households. But an estimated 36 percent of the program’s subscribers might be ineligible for enrollment, according to the audit.
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