Alaska and Hawaii have the highest poverty guidelines in 2015, while the contiguous 48 states and the District of Columbia all have the same poverty guidelines, as determined by the federal government. This is sometimes called the Federal Poverty Level. The Department of Health and Human Services releases the Federal Register in late January each year with the current poverty thresholds.
Alaska has a poverty guideline of $30,320 for a family of four in 2015. Hawaii has a poverty guideline of $27,890 for a family of four, and the contiguous 48 states and the District of Columbia have a poverty guideline of $24,250 for a family of four.
The Social Security Administration began developing the poverty guidelines in 1963 and adopted it as a working definition of poverty in 1965. The Office of Economic Opportunity first determined different poverty guidelines for Alaska and Hawaii in 1969.
States use the poverty guidelines to determine a family's eligibility for federally funded programs, including Head Start, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the School Lunch Program. Cash-based assistance programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income do not use the poverty guidelines in determining eligibility. The Federal government does not figure poverty guidelines for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, Palao or other U.S. Territories.