Many state and federal programs are available to help low income Wisconsin residents. But low income is defined differently by the various state agencies that manage the different types of assistance available. For example, low income levels required to qualify for housing and tax credits may differ from low income levels required to qualify for programs that help with food and healthcare. Subsidies to help with utility bills, or getting free or discounted legal assistance, also have different qualifying income levels. The state agencies that run these programs each publish tables that show what their income ceilings are.
Income Level Requirements
Although the definition of low income varies from department to department, they’re all based on the Federal Poverty Level as defined by Congress, and the number of people in your household. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which runs the state’s FoodShare program, low income for a single person household in 2018 is 100 percent of FPL or $1005 per month. For a household of four people low income is $2,050 per month. For a household of ten it’s $4,142 per month.
FoodShare Wisconsin helps low income households buy the food they need to improve nutrition and maintain overall good health. To qualify for the FoodShare program, the family's net income must be below the levels listed on their website after taxes and deductions.
The state’s Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health coverage to families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to afford private insurance. Children under 19 and pregnant women who are covered by CHIP are also enrolled in Wisconsin’s BadgerCare Plus program which provides free or low-cost healthcare coverage. Further, Wisconsin’s Medicaid program offers healthcare to residents 65 or older and individuals with disabilities.
Each of these programs have different income level maximums. For example, to qualify for CHIP, an individual cannot earn more than $35,640 per year. A family of four cannot earn more than $72,900. But to qualify for Medicaid an individual’s income cannot be more than $15,800 per year. The limit for a family of four is $32,319.
Although the main factors that determine eligibility for state aid in Wisconsin are income and the number of persons in your household, other factors can come into play. For example, if you are a Native American tribal member you can qualify for some types of aid even if your income is higher than the maximum allowed for your household. Wisconsin also offers various types of credits based on a variety of situations. These credits are subtracted from your gross income. So, if you're a Wisconsin resident and find yourself in need, you should apply for aid even if at first glance it appears you won’t qualify.
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