While U.S. family assistance programs vary in terms of eligibility guidelines, most of them determine eligibility by calculating the gross income for the entire household. Most social agencies use the gross household income to compare it to the federal poverty level. The federal poverty level percentage of a household depends on the gross annual or monthly income of the household, as well as the number of people in the household.
Gather at least the last three months' pay stubs for each working individual and any other documents for household members that show income.
Calculate the annual gross income and monthly gross income for each income stream you have. To do this, use the following guidelines:
Get an average income amount for your regular income by adding all the paycheck amounts and dividing that number by the number of paychecks. For example, if you are paid biweekly and have seven paychecks, add all of the paycheck amounts together then divide that number by seven. You do not need to do this step if your paycheck totals are all the same.
For weekly income, multiply the gross weekly earnings by 52 to find the annual income, and then divide by 12 to find the monthly income.
For biweekly income, multiply the gross biweekly earnings by 26 to determine the annual income, and then divide by 12 to find the monthly income.
For bimonthly income, multiply the gross bi-monthly earnings by 24 to figure the annual income, and divide the result by 12 to find the monthly income.
For monthly income, multiply the income by 12 to find the annual income, and use the actual monthly income amount as your monthly income.
Add all the annual figures together and divide by 12 to get your household annual income as well as the household monthly income. For example, one annual figure may be $5,000, the second $12,000 and the third $18,000. You would add those together and reach a total of $35,000. That figure is the annual income of the household. Then you would divide $35,000 by 12 to get the household monthly income of $2,916.
Find the current federal poverty level for your household. Do this by visiting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Poverty Guidelines web page, which is linked in the Resources section.
Calculate the percentage of poverty for your annual household income. To do this, divide your household's annual income by the poverty guideline in the chart provided on the Health and Human Services' website. For example, if five people are in your house, you'd find on the 2009 chart that the federal poverty level for a five-person household was $25,790. If your household income is $35,000, you would divide $35,000 by $25,790 to get 1.35.
Then multiply that amount by 100. In the example, 1.35 x 100 = 135 percent of the federal poverty level.
Most types of agencies are able to assist families that are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Your level of family assistance will vary depending on where you live and the type of agency through which you apply for assistance.
Include all sources of income when calculating your gross income, including child support, Social Security benefits, retirement income and annuity income, disability benefits, college grants, military benefits and income from children who are 18 years old or older. Do not calculate food stamp benefits as income. Do not assume that your household expenses will help in determining your assistance benefits.
Do not assume you are automatically eligible for any type of assistance based on your annual income. Call agencies for assistance as soon as possible because social agencies are generally overwhelmed by calls from many families in need of assistance.
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