Living on a poverty level income is not easy, but there are several different options available for individuals and families who find themselves in this situation.
Living on a Poverty Level Income
What is a poverty level income? According to the United States government, the 2009 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia were as follows:
- 1-person household - $10,830
- 2-person household - $14,570
- 3-person household - $18,310
- 4-person household - $22,050
- 5-person household - $25,790
- 6-person household - $29,530
- 7-person household - $33,270
- 8-person household - $37,010
- For families with more than 8 persons, add $3,740 for each additional person.
As a point of reference, a person working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would earn $15,080 for 2,080 hours of work per year. Although this wage puts a single earner above the poverty level, it's important to realize that families with young children make up the majority of people living in poverty.
There are many different reasons why a family might be living in poverty. However, some of the most common risk factors for financial difficulty include:
- Lack of education
- Inadequate transportation
- No proper childcare
- Single parent family
- Unable to work due to injury or poor health
- Alcoholism, depression, or mental illness
If you are living on a very low income, careful budgeting is essential. Cut costs in as many ways as possible, since even a savings of a few dollars can be significant. To get started, review the following articles from LoveToKnow Save:
- How to Save Money When You Have None
- Money Saving Tips from the Great Depression
- Frugal Dinner Recipes
Public Assistance Programs
It can be embarrassing to admit that you're struggling to make ends meet, but you don't need to suffer in silence. If you're living on a very low income, there are several different resources available to help you make ends meet. Examples of some of the public assistance programs available for people living in poverty include:
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Food stamps
- Section 8 housing assistance
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Free or reduced price school lunches
- Head Start
The application process for each of these programs varies, since many states are allowed to set their own eligibility criteria. The program may require you to have a poverty level income or the threshold may be set at a percentage such as 150% or 200% of the poverty level. You can learn more about what types of assistance programs you might be eligible for by visiting the Government Benefits website.
If you're considering applying for a public assistance program, please keep in mind that the federal government has stiff penalties for people who commit fraud in order to receive benefits. Fines and jail time may be assessed. You may also be asked to pay back any assistance that was fraudulently obtained. Forms of public assistance fraud include:
- Not reporting self -employment income
- Not reporting child report received
- Failure to comply with a program's work or education requirements
- Lying about how many people live in your home
- Underreporting the value of your car, a savings account, or other assets
Other Forms of Assistance
In addition to the government programs that aim to help people living in poverty, there are also a number of community groups that work to provide support to struggling families and individuals. This includes organizations like Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army Food Pantry, as well as medical clinics that provide healthcare services based on a sliding fee scale. There are also groups that work to deal with specific causes of poverty by providing services such as free tutoring to help former dropouts earn their high school diploma or GED.
Churches and public libraries often have lists of assistance programs available in a particular community. Department of Health and Human Services caseworkers can also provide referrals to resources that may be helpful for your personal situation.