Federal income guidelines are rules established by the federal government to determine eligibility for federal and state assistance programs. Family size is paired with income to determine eligibility for housing, food and medical assistance.
The federal government collects and analyzes income, price and poverty statistics annually and adjusts federal income guidelines to maintain a standard level of care for the recipients of federal assistance. Guidelines are constant in the 48 contiguous states, but Alaska and Hawaii have their own standards due to a higher cost of living. The maximum income allowed to be eligible to receive certain benefits increases as family size increases. As of 2015, family of one can earn a maximum of approximately $17,600, while a family of eight can earn a maximum of slightly more than $61,000. Between $6,200 and $7,100, depending on geographic location, is added for each family member above eight.
Percentage of area median income methods for determining eligibility for federal programs are used in conjunction with federal income guidelines. Area median income is the middle income level for a particular geographic area, usually a state or county. To be eligible for federal assistance, a family must be at or below some percentage of area median income.