At what point does your family start dropping off the eligibility brackets for public and charity assistance?
As you can see from the Monroe on a Budget “How Broke is Broke” chart, that point varies quite a bit.
But once your income reaches 200 percent of federal poverty income guidelines, you’re well past the cutoffs for most well-known assistance programs. Instead, you should instead focus your search for resources that are based on special demographics or circumstances such as military, senior citizen, or college student; or are “first come, first served” services and programs.
100 percent on the 2013 federal figures for a Michigan family works out like this:
- 1 person: $11,490.
- 2 people: $15,510.
- 3 people: $19,530.
- 4 people: $23,550.
- 5 people: $27,570.
- 6 people: $31,590.
That means 200 percent on the 2013 federal figures for a Michigan family works out like this:
- 1 person: $22,980.
- 2 people: $31,020.
- 3 people: $39,060.
- 4 people: $47,100.
- 5 people: 55,140.
- 6 people: $63,180.
Do you feel “broke” just by looking at those figures?
Who relies on the poverty brackets for assistance?
This is an explanation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
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.
The “How Broke is Broke?” chart – Nov. / Dec. 2013 edition
This chart is based on a family of two adults and two children in Monroe County, Mich., or in Michigan, as applicable to the programs or data.
The list compares various wage and salary levels to the income cutoff for specific public and charity assistance resources; and also to what some experts have recommended really is a “living wage” in Michigan.
Extreme poverty, defined as 50 percent of poverty bracket:
- $11,775 – Annual income for a family of four that was considered “extreme poverty” in Michigan with the 2013 brackets.
Below poverty, family of four:
- $14,684 – Eligibility bracket for a family of four to receive energy-related emergency assistance from the Michigan Department of Human Services.
- $15,080 – Annual income for one full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
- $15,392 – Annual income for one full-time worker earning the Michigan minimum wage of $7.40 an hour.
- $18,720 – Annual income for one full-time worker who earns $9 an hour.
- $20,800- Annual income for one-full-time worker who earns $10 an hour, a pay scale that Michigan Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, has proposed as a state minimum wage by January 2015.
100 percent of poverty, family of four:
- $23,550 – 2013 federal poverty guideline for a family of four as reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as it applies to the 48 contiguous states. Percentages of this figure are used to calculate income eligibility for multiple government programs.
- $23,550 – Poverty level is the income guideline cutoff for Monroe County, Mich., residents who are senior citizens or physically disabled to receive a wheelchair-accessible ramp to their home through the Project Ramp effort coordinated by the United Way of Monroe County.
- $24,343 – The Census Bureau is reporting an additional statistic called Supplemental Poverty Measure that adjusts the standard poverty threshold for factors such as child care expenses, child support paid, housing subsidies, and taxes. This is the national figure from 2010 for a family of four. The goal of this statistic, according to the Michigan League for Human Services, is to help analyze the effectiveness of Earned Income Tax Credit and other programs aimed at those in financial need.
- $29,120 – Annual income for one full-time worker who earns $14 an hour. The background to this salary range is this: there was quite an uproar in 2008 when $14 an hour wage brackets became part of the “two tier workforce” in southeast Michigan.
- $29,786 – Annual income that a Michigan household needed to earn in 2010 to afford the fair market value of $745 for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the Michigan League for Human Services. “The cost of renting an apartment has grown by over 25 percent over the past decade, even though jobs and income have fallen,” the League says in its “Ties that Bind” report.
- $29,965 – Income cut-off point for a family of four to receive free school lunches and breakfast during the 2012-13 school year in the 48 contiguous states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.
- $29,965 – Income cut-off for participation of a family of four in the Women Infants Children food and nutrition program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered through the Michigan Department of Community Health.
- $30,173 – Annual wages that the National Low Income Housing Coalition says it takes to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Michigan during 2013, based on fair market rental of $768 for such a unit.
- $30,615 – Income cut-off point for a family of four to receive free school lunches and breakfast during the 2013-14 school year in the 48 contiguous states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.
- $30,624 – Annual household income cutoff for a family of four on food stamps, per the USDA web site for fiscal year 2013-14, unless other qualifications are met.
- $30,784 – Annual household income when two full-time workers earn the current Michigan minimum wage of $7.40 an hour.
- $31,200 – Annual income when one full-time worker makes $15 an hour, which is the “living wage” discussion point in the national fast food strikes of 2013.
- $32,500 – Expected income cutoff for a family of four Michigan residents to be eligible for Medicaid starting in April 2014, according to HealthCare.gov.
- $34,000-$50,950 – Income eligibility range for a family of four in most of Monroe County, Mich., for the homeowner program run by Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, Mich. The Luna Pier income eligibility range starts at $26,000 for a family of four.
- $34,575 – Income cutoff for a family of four on the 2012-13 winter for Winter Protection Plan for winter heating bills via Michigan Gas Utilities. This is 150 percent of poverty level.
- $34,575 – The Michigan income bracket that applies to a family of four for the Lifeline telephone program that allows one discounted (sometimes free) wireless or landline phone per low income household. You might know this program by its inaccurate nickname of “Obama phones.”
150 percent of poverty, family of four:
- $35,325 – Income cut-off in fall 2013 for the Heat and Warmth Fund, a program that is available to DTE Energy customers to provide assistance should they reach shut-off status.
- $35,325 – Income cut-off in fall 2013 for the Residential Income Assistance credit available to DTE Energy customers. This includes a $6 a month credit on the electric account and / or a $10.50 a month credit on the natural gas account.
- $35,325 – Cutoff for family of four to receive grocery assistance once every three months from the Salvation Army of Monroe County, Mich. Salvation Army says it follows a 150 percent of poverty bracket.
- $37,440 – Income when two wage-earners are working full time at $9 an hour each.
- $41,032 – The Early Start Scholarship program in Michigan, administered by the Women’s Caring Program to help with child care expenses for children ages 2 and younger, has an income eligibility bracket of $28,416 to $41,032 for a family of four.
- $43,568 – Income cut-off point for students in a family of four in the contiguous 48 states to receive reduced-price school lunches during the 2012-13 school year.
- $43,568 – Income cut-off point for the Comcast Internet Essentials program, a discounted rate for home Internet for families whose children are on free or reduced-price school lunches.
- $47,100 – Income cut-off for Monroe County, Mich., family of four to receive groceries in fall 2012 from the Emergency Food Assistance Program administered by the Monroe County Opportunity Program.
200 percent poverty, family of four:
- $47,162 – Income cut-off on the Earned Income Tax Credit during 2012 tax filing year for a married couple filing jointly with two qualifying children, according to the Internal Revue Service.
- $50,034 – Median household income for Monroe County, Mich., in 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau.
- $53,744 – Median household income for Monroe County, Mich., in 2011, according to the 2012 Community Needs Assessment study compiled by Monroe County Opportunity Program.
- $57,000 – or less for gross adjusted income for taxpayers to use FreeFile service for tax season 2012, according to the Internal Revenue Service. According to the IRS, 70% of all taxpayers have an AGI of $57,000 or less.
- $58,240 – Annual household income when two full-time workers are earning $14 an hour.
250 percent of poverty, family of four:
- $58,875 – 250 percent of poverty is the “lower middle class” point discussed in a Hamilton Project policy paper.
- $58,875 – Income cutoff for a family of four on the Monroe County Great Start Readiness Program for preschoolers.
- $60,507 – Living wage or “basic needs budget” estimate calculated by the Monroe County Community Needs Assessment, a study done in 2012 by the Monroe County Opportunity Program.
- $62,000 – Annual income for two adults and two children that a study in 2011 by the Wider Opportunities for Women in partnership with the Michigan League for Human Services said met “basic economic security” in Michigan.
- $62,400 – Annual income for two full time wage earners at $15 an hour, which is the “living wage” discussion point in the national fast food strikes of 2013.
300 percent poverty bracket, family of four:
- $70,650 – Annual income cutoff for family of four, assuming other guidelines also are met, for the Salvation Army of Monroe County to provide utility assistance once a year. Yes, it’s listed as 300 percent of poverty guideline.
400 percent poverty, family of four
- $94,200 – 400 percent of poverty for a family of four in 2013 in the 48 contiguous states.
- $94,200 – The income cap for a family of four on tax subsidies for health care reform, according to an explanation from CNN.
What about families of other sizes?
The reason I build this chart on a family of four is that it’s the easiest one to find data for.
But some of the studies and reports I reference do explain the formula used or provide charts beyond that bracket. Look at the poverty brackets I list at the start of the article, see the math as explained in this chart or follow the links where I have them embedded, and in many cases you’ll be able to figure out income cutoffs for your size family and demographic.
Updated Dec. 24, 2013.