Being poor doesn't mean you have to look for a pay phone when emergency strikes.
Since the 1980s, the federal government has helped low-income people get access to telephone service. The program has adapted to advances in technology.
TracFone Wireless, a prepaid specialist based in Florida, says 712,000 low-income households in Missouri qualify for a free cellphone and 68 minutes of monthly talk time for one year. The eligibility is based on requirements similar to the ones used by Medicaid.
TracFone does not offer its SafeLink service in all states. Kansas residents can access federally assisted discounts through Sprint Nextel.