The federal government released the 2003 Federal Poverty Guidelines in today’s issue of the Federal Register. The poverty guidelines, sometimes loosely referred to as the “federal poverty level,” define who is officially considered “poor.” The guidelines are adjusted up each year to account for inflation.
State and federal agencies use the guidelines to determine eligibility for a range of programs to assist the poor, such as National School Lunch Program, Legal Services, Food Stamps, and the Oregon Health Plan. The guidelines are not used for the state’s cash assistance welfare program, called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), or for determining eligibility for the federal or state earned income credits.
“The increase in the federal poverty guidelines makes more people immediately eligible for the Oregon Health Plan, the Child Health Insurance Plan, and the Family Health Insurance Assistance Plan,” said Charles Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy.
“A true test of government efficiency and Oregon’s commitment to providing health coverage to those in need will be the speed at which state officials change their program rules and start using the new guidelines. They have the tools to implement the new guidelines immediately through temporary rules, and they ought to do so,” Sheketoff added.
The Federal Poverty Guidelines are based on the size of the family and are applicable to the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; the federal government sets different guidelines for Alaska and Hawaii. “The poor” are families with incomes at or below the poverty guidelines. While the term is not officially defined, “low income” often means families with incomes at or below 200 percent (twice) the poverty guidelines.
For additional information contact the Oregon Center for Public Policy. These charts are available on the OCPP web site at: www.www.ocpp.org/poverty/index.htm. For previous years’ poverty guidelines, or guidelines for Alaska and Hawaii, visit the web site for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at: http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/.
The Oregon Center for Public Policy is a Silverton, Oregon-based non-profit research institute that uses research and analysis to advance policies and practices that improve the economic and social prospects of low- and moderate-income Oregonians, the majority of Oregonians.