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Federal poverty level

The federal poverty level is how much money you can make and still qualify for certain government benefits. Each January, the U.S. government sets a new limit. There is a level for one adult and another level for families.

The poverty level is the same for 48 states. Alaska and Canada each have their own poverty level.

You may hear about 138% of poverty level or other percentages. These percentages show how the amount of money you make in a year compares to the poverty level.

For instance, let's say the poverty level is $25,000. That means any adult that makes $25,000 or less in a year is considered by the U.S. government to be poor.

  • If you make exactly $25,000 a year, you're at 100% of the poverty level.
  • If you make $50,000 a year, you're at 200% of the poverty level. That's because you make twice as much as the income that sets the poverty level.
  • If you make $37,500 a year, you're at 150% of the poverty level. That's because you make 50% more -- $12,500 -- than the income that sets the poverty level.
  • If you make $12,500 a year, you are at 50% of the poverty level, because you make half as much as the income that sets the poverty level.

These are just some of the government benefits based on the poverty level. All of them are for adults or kids in families that don't make much money:

  • CHIP or SCHIP, which stands for children's health insurance program or state children's health insurance program -- public health insurance with free or low-cost health care to children under the age of 18
  • Community Health Centers -- federally-supported, nonprofit organizations offering health care to medically underserved people in a specific area.
  • Family planning -- programs that help men, women, or couples see how ready they are to have a first child or more children, including talking about birth control, sexual health, and fertility.
  • Head Start -- a federal program for children ages 3 to 5 in families that don’t make a lot of money that helps prepare them to be successful in school by getting them socially and academically ready to start.
  • SNAP, which stands for supplemental nutrition assistance program -- This used to be called the food stamp program and gives financial help for people to buy food, including baby food.
  • WIC, which stands for the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children -- certain types of free nutritious food, health care referrals, and nutrition education for pregnant women, women who gave birth 6 or fewer weeks before, breastfeeding women, and children up to their 5th birthday, paid for through grants from the Federal government to the states.
  • Medicaid -- state-run public health insurance programs for the elderly and people with disabilities as well as those with a low income.
  • Subsidies to buy insurance in a Marketplace -- financial aid to decrease the cost of insurance for people who buy health insurance on their state's health insurance Marketplace.

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