Sen. Vitter aims to eliminate government phone program - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Vitter aims to eliminate government phone program

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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is one of two U.S. senators who want to put an end to the Lifeline program, which provides free cell phone service to low-income people.

Peter Verdine and Julia Tezeno are two local participants in the program.

Tezeno said in 2010, she took on the role of nurse to family and friends plagued with sickness and that's when she said she needed Lifleline. 

"I'm taking care of family members and needed help and when I would go out, they had a way of getting a hold of me in case of an emergency," said Tezeno. 

Verdine was in a similar situation. His Lifeline phone provided a sense of security.  

"It's always there and you're not scared," he said. "You can go to the hospital, you at the job, you out of money and you can get anywhere, you call."

Legislation recently introduced by Vitter would bring an end the Lifeline program.

"I think cell phones don't belong on the list of so-called necessities that taxpayers have to fund," he said.

Vitter said the program has expanded far beyond it's original intent, making it offensive for Washington to make taxpayers pay for free cell phones for others. 

"Look, I don't want to tinker around the edges. I don't want to talk about abuses, simply we need to end the program," said Vitter. 

Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, who is a co-author on the legislation, agreed, saying the lack of proper oversight gives room for programs like Lifeline to be abused and riddled with fraud. 

Verdine and Tezeno recognize some may abuse the program, but say the number of people who the program benefits far outnumber those who abuse it. 

"I don't know how the problem would be solved by getting rid of the abusers, but that's something that they need to work on and look at," said Tezeno. 

"They should do more searching and understanding about it because it's more helpful than it is someone abusing it," Verdine said.

The legislation is waiting for approval from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid before it moves to the full Senate for a vote.

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