JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Read the latest political polls and Obamacare is a dirty word in a lot of places including Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia. But if you're getting something for free that you might not otherwise be able to afford you might have a different take on things.
"The Obama phone. That's what everybody calls it," said a local low-income veteran. He's talking about the government's free cellphone program, Lifeline. People say it's a ringing success too many families at Hemming Plaza where dozens of homeless people spend a good part of their day.
"This is a government program where you can stay in contact with your family and you pay nothing at all. It's alright. And people that work and pay taxes are paying for it," said disabled veteran Simon Smith.
It's a sweet deal nearly a million Floridians are thanking taxpayers for.
"I get free minutes too and texting. 250 minutes a month for free and I can text," said one homeless woman.
But this program for low-income families is souring with some taxpayers.
"I think the government has too much waste. People are able to get free cellphones, food stamps, housing and stuff like that," one taxpayer said.
The program is one I reported on nearly three years ago and it's still going strong. However, new regulations are cracking down on fraud, waste and abuse. Florida is also leading the charge to stop it.
"We're very proud of Florida because the FCC is holding Florida up as an example for other states. And other states call me all the time and want to know about our systems and how we handle things," said Bob Casey, the Lifeline Section Supervisor in Florida.
Casey helped shut down providers in the state who were overcharging customers and falsely obtaining millions earmarked for the program.
In 2011, the agency overseeing the free government phones analyzed nearly 4 million Lifeline subscriber records in a dozen states. The program allows for only one phone per household. The agency looked at more than 800,000 Lifeline subscriber records in Florida and uncovered 50,000 duplications.
It saved the program hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the fraud, waste and abuse in the program is a serious problem that Casey says Florida may never completely stop. But he'll keep trying.
"We may not stop it 100 percent, but we may get to 98 percent. And when we find it we're going to get rid of it," said Casey.