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Federal Poverty Level, What's That?

The federal poverty level (FPL) is a measure of income issued annually by the Department of Health and Human Services that is used to determine eligibility for various public programs and benefits, including Medicaid, health insurance premium tax credits, the free- and reduced- school lunch program, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and many others.

The federal poverty level, which takes into account family size, is $11,770 for a single individual and $24,250 for a family of four in 2015. There are separate, higher levels for residents of Alaska and Hawaii.

The federal poverty level was first established in 1965 and was set at three times the cost of a basic food plan. The level is adjusted annually for inflation. It is widely accepted that the federal poverty level does not accurately reflect the amount of income needed to meet one’s basic needs.

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