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Programs that Use the Poverty Guidelines as a Part of Eligibility Determination

The HHS poverty guidelines, or percentage multiples of them (such as 125 percent, 150 percent, or 185 percent), are used as an eligibility criterion by a number of federal programs, including those listed below.  For examples of major means-tested programs that do not use the poverty guidelines, see the end of this response.

  • Department of Health and Human Services
    • Medicaid
    • Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidies
    • Children's Health Insurance Program
    • Consolidated Health Centers (CHCs), including Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)
    • Maternal and child health services
    • Title X Family Planning Program
    • Older Americans Act Nutrition Program
    • Head Start
    • Health professions student loans and scholarships
    • Community Services Block Grant
    • Social Services Block Grant (Including Transfers from TANF)
    • Low-income Home Energy Assistance
  • Department of Agriculture
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
    • National School Lunch Program
    • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
    • Child and Adult Care Food Program
    • School Breakfast Program
    • Summer Food Service Program
    • Commodity Supplemental Food Program
    • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
    • Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)
    • Special Milk Program for Children
  • Department of Education
    • TRIO Programs
    • Educational stipends for the Native Hawaiian Career and Technical Education Program (NHCTEP)
    • Educational stipends for the  Native American Career and Technical Education Program (NHCTEP)
    • D.C. School Choice Incentives
    • Federal Student Aid - Income-Driven Plans
  • Department of Energy
    • Weatherization Assistance Program
  • Department of Homeland Security
    • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration Form Fee Waiver (Form I-912)
    • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds
  • Department of Labor
    • Job Corps
    • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)
    • Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)
  • Department of Treasury
    • Health Insurance Premium Tax Credits
    • Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITC)
    • Fee waiver for Offer in Compromise
    • Reduced user fee for Installment Agreements
  • Corporation for National and Community Service
    • Foster Grandparent Program
    • Senior Companion Program
  • Federal Communications Commission
    • LifeLine
  • Legal Services Corporation
    • Legal Services

Most of these programs are non-open-ended programs — that is, programs for which a fixed amount of money is appropriated each year. A few open-ended or “entitlement” programs that use the poverty guidelines for eligibility are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps), the National School Lunch Program, certain parts of Medicaid, and the subsidized portion of Medicare – Prescription Drug Coverage.

Some state and local governments have chosen to use the federal poverty guidelines in some of their own programs and activities. Examples include financial guidelines for child support enforcement and determination of legal indigence for court purposes. Some private companies (such as utilities, telephone companies, and pharmaceutical companies) and some charitable agencies also use the guidelines in setting eligibility for their services to low-income persons.

Major means-tested programs that do not use the poverty guidelines in determining eligibility include the following:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • State/local-funded General Assistance (in most cases)
  • Some parts of Medicaid
  • Section 8 low-income housing assistance
  • Low-rent public housing
Posted in: HHS Administrative
Content created by Digital Communications Division (DCD)
Content last reviewed on November 5, 2019