Poverty guidelines are issued each year in the Federal Register by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).The guidelines are a simplification of the poverty thresholds for use for administrative purposes—for instance, determining financial eligibility for certain federal programs, such as Medicaid. The January 20 Federal Register notice of the 2011 poverty guidelines is available.
The poverty guidelines are sometimes loosely referred to as the “federal poverty level” (FPL), but that phrase is ambiguous and should be avoided, especially in situations (e.g., legislative or administrative) where precision is important.
NOTE: The poverty guideline figures below are not the figures the Census Bureau uses to calculate the number of poor persons.
The figures that the Census Bureau uses are the poverty thresholds.
Programs using the guidelines (or percentage multiples of the guidelines—for instance, 125 percent or 185 percent of the guidelines) in determining eligibility include Head Start, the Food Stamp Program, the National School Lunch Program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.Note that in general, cash public assistance programs (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income) do not use the poverty guidelines in determining eligibility. The Earned Income Tax Credit program also does not use the poverty guidelines to determine eligibility.
For a more detailed list of programs that do and do not use the guidelines, see HHS’s Frequently Asked Questions.
2011 HHS Poverty Guidelines
For each additional