The Federal Poverty Level is a set of guidelines established by the federal government that is used to determine eligibility for certain programs and benefits, like Medicaid and food stamps. Be careful to not confuse the Federal Poverty Level chart with poverty thresholds. Poverty thresholds are what the U.S. Census Bureau uses for statistical purposes, like to determine what percentage of impoverished people live in certain areas. The poverty thresholds are based on income, family size, number of children, and age, whereas the Federal Poverty Level chart is based purely on income and family size, and is changed every year based on estimates of the level of income a family needs to afford basic needs.
Does the National Poverty Level Change by State?
The (Federal) National Poverty Level is the same for all states except for Alaska and Hawaii. You can see those differences in the charts at the bottom of this page.
If you have Medicare or Medicaid, this may not apply to you. However, to qualify for Obamacare subsidies (tax credits) in 2019, your income cannot exceed 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. Keep in mind that if you earn much less than 400% of the FPL, you may qualify for even more savings (maybe even Medicaid). In fact, if you make less than 100% of the FPL, you may not even qualify for subsidies because you can instead qualify for Medicaid and other savings options that will be better for you than subsidies.
Your program eligibility is usually based on your percentage of the Federal Poverty Level. For example, if your family income falls at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Level, you may qualify for SNAP. To make the math easy, let’s pretend that the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is $100 (it’s actually much higher). If the requirement is 130% of FPL, you must make $130 or less per year to qualify.
Each state Medicaid program will have slightly different FPL percentage requirements, so be sure to check with your state Medicaid program’s specific regulations.
The Federal Poverty Level numbers are introduced each year with a one-year lag. Therefore, these are the numbers that were released in 2018 that reflect eligibility for 2019. To calculate the percentage of FPL that you are living at, use this simple formula:
Divide your income by the poverty level listed below (according to your household size). Move the decimal over two places to the right and add a percentage sign.
Family of 4, income of $40,000 per year:
40,000 divided by $25,100 = 1.5936255.
Move the decimal, and you are at 159% of the FPL.