Federal poverty level

The federal poverty level is used to determine how much money you can make and still qualify for certain government benefits. Each January, the U.S. government sets a new limit. The federal poverty level increases for each additional person in the household.

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

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.

Federal poverty levels change each year. To view the 2021 federal poverty levels based on household size, marital status, and other factors, click here.

These are some of the government benefits based on the federal poverty level:

  • CHIP or SCHIP, which stands for Children's Health Insurance Program or State Children's Health Insurance Program. This is public health insurance with free or low-cost health care to children under age 19.
  • Community Health Centers -- These are federally supported, nonprofit organizations that offer health care to medically underserved people in a specific area.
  • Family planning (Title X)-- These are programs that help men, women, or couples see how ready they are to have children, including talking about birth control, sexual health, and fertility.
  • Head Start -- This is a federal program for children ages 3 to 5 in families that don’t make a lot of money. The program helps prepare children to be successful in school by getting them socially and academically ready to start.
  • SNAP, which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Formerly called the food stamp program, this gives financial help for people to buy food, including baby food.
  • WIC, which stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. This providescertain 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 --This is astate-run public health insurance program for people with disabilities, children, pregnant women, and the elderly, as well as those with a low income.
  • Subsidies to buy insurance in a Marketplace. This is a form of financial aid to decrease the cost of insurance premiums and cost-sharing for people who qualify to buy health insurance on their state's health insurance Marketplace.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sarah Goodell on June 21, 2021



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