Income guidelines for public assistance vary from state to state. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a listing of the various public aid programs available, as well as program locator assistance and further informational resources. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also publishes the poverty guidelines on an annual basis in the Federal Register (official journal of the federal government), which are used to determine eligibility for numerous federal aid programs.
Federal Poverty Level
The poverty guidelines are used by a number of federal programs, as well as by the Community Services Block Grant Program, as an eligibility measure. The poverty line is a direct function of family size and income. The federal poverty line for the contiguous 48 states in 2011 is set at $10,890 for a single-person household and $3,820 is added for each additional person in the household.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
The TANF program is designed to provide temporary help to families with children, when the parents or other responsible adults in the household cannot provide for the basic needs of the family. The program is state-run and funded by federal government grants. The federal government allows the states ample flexibility to decide the range of services being provided, the rules for eligibility and the amount and type of assistance payments made to families. The income guidelines for public assistance through the TANF program are determined by each state.
Food Stamp Program (SNAP)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the new name for the federal program formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. To obtain SNAP benefits, a household must meet specific income guidelines. Unless all members of the household are receiving TANF or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits, the household is typically required to meet both the gross (pretax) and net income guidelines. For Oct. 1, 2008 through Sept. 30, 2011, the maximum allowable gross monthly income for a single-person household is $1,174 and the net income is $903. For each additional person in the household, another $406 and $312 are added to gross and net income respectively.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI is a public assistance program that provides supplemental income to adults 65 years and older, blind persons and the disabled. The benefit amounts are based on the current poverty level, and the amount of funds needed to bring total monthly income up to $674 for individuals and $1,011 for couples.
Section 8 Housing
Public assistance housing was established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a way to provide safe and affordable housing for the disabled, elderly and low-income families. HUD provides funding to local housing agencies (HAs) to manage Section 8 housing. In addition to income guidelines, there are other requirements that must be met: for example, qualification as a family, elderly or disabled person and U.S. citizenship or qualified immigration status. Income limits vary by area, so HUD sets the lower income limit at 80 percent and the very low income limit at 50 percent of the median income level for the county or municipal area where residents live.
- Health & Human Services: Families
- National Archives: The Federal Register
- ASPE-HHS: 2011 Poverty Guidelines
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Food & Nutrition Service: SNAP Eligibility
- HUD: HUD's Public Housing Program
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Poverty Guidelines.” Accessed Feb. 5, 2020.
- U.S Department of Health and Human Services. "Frequently Asked Questions." Accessed Feb. 5, 2020.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. "SNAP Special Rules for the Elderly or Disabled." Accessed Feb. 5, 2020.
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Federal Poverty Level (FPL)." Accessed Feb. 5, 2020.
- HealthCare.gov. “How To Save On Your Monthly Insurance Bill With A Premium Tax Credit.” Accessed Feb. 5, 2020.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Frequently Asked Questions Related to the Poverty Guidelines and Poverty.” Accessed Feb. 5, 2020.
- University of Virginia, Miller Center. “Lyndon B. Johnson's State of the Union Address, Jan. 8, 1964.” Accessed Feb. 5, 2020.
Based in California, Debbie Donner is a freelance online writer who primarily writes articles related to personal finance. Donner received a Mensa scholarship in 2006 while attending California State University, Fresno. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts and a multiple-subject teaching credential.