Define a Low-Income Family

Many under employed household units are considered by the government to be "low-income families" and may be found eligible for certain types of government support and assistance. Correspondent to the changing economy, the economic guidelines that define a low income family vary periodically. Accurate information to define a low income family is always available online or at your local department of human services.

Income Guidlines

As of 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that the annual low income levels range from £10,559 yearly for a family of one to £36,084 for a family of eight or more. The only state exceptions to the national poverty level guidelines are Hawaii and Alaska. The federal Office of Economic Opportunity established separate low-income guidelines for Alaska and Hawaii, beginning in 1996, and that practice continues. Hawaii's low-income is £12,148 for a one-member household to £41,496 for eight or more family members. Alaska's low income family eligibility ranges from £13,191 for one family member to £45,132 for eight family members.

Assistance For Low Income Families

In nationwide efforts to prevent hunger, homelessness and loss of employment, many working households become entitled to a variety of government assistance grants that are referred to as "work supports." Some work supports are similar to the types of benefits that are provided to unemployed welfare recipients, others include college tuition assistance, tax preparation, and services of such nature. Providing underemployed families with work supports enables many to avoid having to turn to the government for complete support. Households that meet the eligibility requirements for this type assistance are defined as low-income families.

Are Guidelines Determined Before or After Taxes?

Depending upon what types of programs you are interested in applying for, determining individual low-income guidelines will vary from program to program and state to state. Some government assistance programs calculate poverty levels according to the applicant's gross earnings while others will look at the net (after taxes) amount. You must contact each individual organisation to find out what policy is use for calculating income eligibility requirements.

A Common Misconception

Contrary to popular belief, a household unit does not have to be completely unemployed to be considered a low-income family. Families can have multiple working members, yet still fall below the national poverty level and meet eligibility requirements for various assistance programs. Generally, a family that earns a gross income that is below 200 per cent of the current national poverty level is a low-income family. Income requirements vary accordingly to the number of children and working adults in the household.

When Do The Guidelines Change?

The guidelines that determine the national poverty level are subject to change yearly. Each year the Federal Register estimates the consumer price changes for the upcoming year based on statistics from the most recent passing year. Yearly poverty level guidelines are published in late January each year by the Federal Register. Contact your local department of human services to find out what current poverty levels are to determine whether or not your family falls into the low income category.

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About the Author

Michelle Renee is a professional trainer and quality assurance consultant in the career, education and customer service industries, with two decades of experience in food/beverage and event coordinating management. Renee has been published by Lumino and Career Flight as well as various food, education and business publications.