In California, the unemployment rate may be above 10.2%, and the state debt may be above $16 billion, the state’s GDP may be in serious trouble and businesses may be leaving in droves due to ever-increasing tax rates, but that isn’t going to stop the gravy train for the state’s poor and dispossessed. The California Public Utilities Commission is all set to greenlight a new program that would give homeless and low-income people free cell phones – call them Obamaphones – with free service. The idea is to help them reach out to possible job opportunities and stay connected with family.
San Francisco’s head of homeless initiatives, Bevan Dufty, was overjoyed: “This is great – it is transformative for homeless and low-income people. I expect San Francisco to be in the forefront and a model city for this program. Fundamentally, to be in the mainstream of our society you have to have a phone. And really, for the homeless population, you need a cell phone because they don’t have a home to hard-wire one into. We really need this plan.” Dufty is pushing an effort to allow the homeless to call 311 to find out where there’s an available bed at a homeless shelter.
The state has funded phones for the poor for years, but they were always hardline phones, not cell phones. The new program will give beneficiaries some 250 minutes of time and 250 free text messages every month.