Frequently Asked Questions  
  BIGtalk and Link-Up  
What is the BIGtalk program?
  BIGtalk is a groundbreaking government program that offers low-income households a large discount on their monthly telephone bill.
How do I know if I'm eligible?
  You're eligible for BIGtalk if you participate in any of the following programs listed below:

Program based eligibility:
  • Food Stamps
  • Medicaid
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Safety net assistance
  • Veterans Disability Pension
  • Veterans Surviving Spouse Pension
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Or Total household income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

135% of the 2009 Poverty Guidelines
Persons in familyPoverty guideline
For families with more than 8 persons, add $5,049 for each additional person.

SOURCE: Federal Register, Vol. 74, No. 14, January 23, 2009, pp. 4199–4201

How do I apply for BIGtalk assistance?
  To apply is easy, all you have to do is mail or fax in a copy of your benefits card with a filled out user-friendly application. Or call 718-663-0000
Will I receive notification that I have been approved for BIGtalk?
  No, you will be contacted if you are NOT approved or if additional information is needed.
If I submit my ID number, is that good enough?
  No, you must also include a copy of your benefit card. We cannot put the order through without a copy of the card.
Is this going to appear as a credit on my phone bill?
  It is not a credit, it is the actual cost you will be paying.
Are retirement/nursing home/assisted living households eligible for BIGtalk?
  Yes, if the resident is receiving any of the above benefits.
My parent or child has a telephone in their room and the service is in their name. Are they eligible for BIGtalk?
  A. Yes, if they are enrolled in one of the above programs.
I qualify for BIGtalk but I have an unpaid bill with Xchange Telecom. What should I do?
  You should make arrangements with Xchange Telecom to pay the outstanding bill.
I am an existing Xchange customer and already have a calling plan. Can I still receive BIGtalk?
  Yes, and the good news is you can still hang on to the features you currently have, for a small additional fee, when you sign up for the appropriate plan.
Are cellular telephone customers eligible for Xchange BIGtalk?
  The Xchange BIGtalk program is for residential landlines—the phone that is connected in your house.

The phone is not in my name. Am I still eligible for BIGtalk?
  No, the name on the bill must be the same name as the person who receives the benefits. But you may change the name on your account to reflect that of the one receiving the benefits.
If I get BIGtalk, can I still make long distance calls?
  Depends on the plan you select, but generally speaking BIGtalk does not have an effect on your ability to make local or long distance calls. BIGtalk is only a reduction in the basic service charge.
If I use a post office box as a mailing address, do I need to put the physical address of the telephone on the application?
I don't receive any assistance from the government, but I believe my gross income is lower than 135% of the federally established poverty level. How do I apply for BIGtalk?
  You send an application to Xchange Telecom, with proof of household income, which you will find below.
Does income mean gross or net?
  Adjusted Gross, including any social security benefits.
How do I document my income?
  Any credible, preferably official document will suffice. A complete list of documents is below:

Proof of Household Income Supporting Documents:
  • U.S. Individual Income Tax Statement
  • W-2 Wage and Tax Statement
  • Social Security Statement of Benefit
  • Veteran's Administration Statement of Benefit
  • Public/Private Retirement/Pension Statement
  • Unemployment Benefit Statement
  • Worker's Compensation Statement of Benefit
  • Divorce Decree
  • Child Support Decree
  • Other official agency document

The phone is in my deceased spouse's name. Do I have to put the service in my name?
  You need to have your name added to the account. You can request that the telephone number remain listed under your deceased spouse's name if you wish.
We live off of investment income which totals less than the annual income criteria for a two-person household. Are we still eligible for BIGtalk?
  Yes, if it is the total household income from all sources.
How are assets counted in my eligibility?
  They are not counted. Income generated, or earned from assets is counted, Assets are not.
Does applying for BIGtalk enroll me in other programs for low-income households?
Are there any restrictions?
  BIGtalk can only be used for the main telephone line in a household. BIGtalk customers may purchase all services offered to non- BIGtalk customers. You cannot be enrolled with another carrier. Nor can you be declared as someone else’s dependant.
How do I continue to receive BIGtalk benefits?
  Your benefits will be discontinued when you no longer meet eligibility requirements or when proof of eligibility is not received.
  Link-Up: helps households reduce the cost of initiating telephone service. This program pays some of the cost of connecting local telephone service to your home.  
Are there any restrictions?
  Link-Up can only be used for the charges for activating a primary telephone line or moving existing service to a new address. Charges related to wiring and telephone jacks within your home and wireless handsets are not eligible for the Link-Up discount.
What is the Linkup program?
  Linkup is a program, which gives a onetime discount (help) on your initial connection and installation of your telephone. Some people call this a hook-up charge.
How do I apply for linkup?
  To apply for Linkup you use the same application as BIGtalk and provide the same proof of eligibility as BIGtalk. Just check off one more box. It’s as easy as that.
If I want BIGtalk, do I need linkup?
  You would only need linkup in the case where there is no telephone already in your place of residence, and you would like to set one up. Conversion to Xchange BIGtalk is free. You can Have BIGtalk without getting linkup.
How much will I save by using Link-Up?
  Link-Up will pay 50% of your activation charges up to $30.00.
  Toll Limitation Service (TLS): allows consumers to avoid large long distance bills by choosing either toll blocking or toll limitation at no charge.  
How much will I save?
  You can add Toll Deny or Allow Selective Calling at no charge each month.
How do I know if I am eligible?
  If you qualify for BIGtalk and Link-Up, you also qualify for TLS.
Being a BIGtalk or Link-Up customer does not protect you from being disconnected if you fail to pay your telephone bill.

The following conditions are required for BIGtalk and Link-Up eligibility:
* Telephone service must be listed in your name.
* Telephone service must be for your primary residence (not a business or second home).


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