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Federal Poverty Level (FPL)


The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is a measure used by the U.S. government to determine an individual’s or family’s eligibility for certain assistance programs. It takes into account the household size and income, and is adjusted annually to account for inflation. The FPL serves as a benchmark for the poverty threshold, helping to categorize people as being above or below the poverty line and, thus, qualifying or disqualifying them from specific assistance programs.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Federal Poverty Level (FPL)” is:- “Federal” – /ˈfɛdərəl/- “Poverty” – /ˈpɑvərti/- “Level” – /ˈlɛvəl/- “FPL” – /ˈɛfˈpiˈɛl/

Key Takeaways

  1. The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is a measure of income used by the U.S. government to determine an individual’s or family’s eligibility for certain benefits or programs, such as Medicaid, food assistance, and other social services.
  2. FPL numbers are adjusted every year by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), taking inflation and cost-of-living changes into account. FPL guidelines are based on the number of people in a household and take into consideration the size of the family.
  3. Programs that use FPL to determine eligibility often have specific FPL percentage thresholds; for example, a program may require that an applicant’s income falls at or below 150% of the FPL to qualify. This means that understanding one’s income in relation to the FPL is critical for accessing various social services.


The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is a crucial benchmark in the business and finance realm, as it serves as a standardized measure of income to determine eligibility for various assistance programs and benefits. By setting the FPL, the government can ensure that resources are appropriately allocated to those in need, promoting social welfare and economic stability. Programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, and the Affordable Care Act subsidies base their financial assistance criteria on the FPL, aiding low-income individuals and families in accessing essential services and ensuring a baseline economic safety net. Furthermore, the FPL fosters a better understanding of the nation’s poverty trends, informing policies and interventions to tackle income inequality and promote inclusive economic growth.


The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) serves as a critical tool in determining an individual’s or family’s eligibility for various government assistance programs and economic subsidies. The purpose of FPL is to provide a standardized and uniform measure to assess the financial capability of individuals or families in maintaining a minimum standard of living. By identifying the threshold for poverty, it assists policymakers and lawmakers in creating social welfare programs that cater to the needs of those genuinely in need of financial aid. Programs that take FPL into consideration include Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

The FPL’s utility extends beyond identifying individuals and families in need; it also enables government agencies to track poverty levels across regions and over time. This surveillance assists in identifying the effectiveness of existing policies and proposing appropriate changes to alleviate poverty more efficiently. Furthermore, the FPL aids health insurance exchanges in offering premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions as a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). By evaluating the economic thresholds that differentiate citizens’ capabilities, the Federal Poverty Level continues to play a vital role in ensuring that assistance programs reach the most vulnerable members of society.


1. Healthcare subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA): The ACA uses the federal poverty level (FPL) to determine eligibility and the amount of subsidies for individuals purchasing health insurance on the federal and state exchanges. Individuals with incomes between 100% and 400% of the FPL may qualify for premium tax credits, which lower their monthly insurance premium costs.

2. Eligibility for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Medicaid and CHIP provide health coverage to low-income families and individuals, with eligibility determined based on FPL guidelines. In most states, families with incomes up to 138% of the FPL qualify for Medicaid coverage, while CHIP covers children up to 200% of the FPL in some states.

3. Federal food assistance programs: The federal government provides food assistance to low-income individuals and families through programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Eligibility for these programs is based on the FPL, with participants typically required to have incomes below 130% to 185% of the FPL, depending on the specific program and state guidelines.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)?

The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is a measure of income used by the United States government to determine eligibility for various federal assistance programs. It is an income threshold set annually by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) based on household size.

How is the FPL calculated?

The FPL is calculated using a set of income guidelines updated annually and adjusted for inflation. The guidelines are determined by the Department of Health and Human Services and are based on household size and income.

Why is the FPL important?

The FPL is important because it is used to determine eligibility for various government assistance programs, including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). It is also used to determine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies for health insurance premiums.

What are the 2021 Federal Poverty Level Guidelines?

The 2021 Federal Poverty Level Guidelines are as follows:- For a household of 1, the FPL is $12,880.- For a household of 2, the FPL is $17,420.- For a household of 3, the FPL is $21,960.- For a household of 4, the FPL is $26,500.- For a household of 5, the FPL is $31,040.- For a household of 6, the FPL is $35,580.- For a household of 7, the FPL is $40,120.- For a household of 8, the FPL is $44,660.For each additional person, add $4,540.

What is the difference between FPL and the poverty threshold?

While both the FPL and poverty threshold are measures of income and used to define poverty, they serve different purposes. The FPL is primarily used to determine eligibility for government assistance programs, while the poverty threshold is used by the US Census Bureau for statistical purposes and to calculate the official poverty rate in the country.

Do the Federal Poverty Level Guidelines vary by state?

The FPL guidelines are the same across the 48 contiguous states and District of Columbia; however, they are higher in Alaska and Hawaii due to the higher cost of living in those states. For example, in 2021, the FPL for a family of four is $33,130 in Alaska and $30,490 in Hawaii, compared to $26,500 in the contiguous states.

Related Finance Terms

  • Income Threshold
  • Government Assistance Programs
  • Medicaid Eligibility
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

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