While you may have heard the income gaps in the United States are getting larger, you might not know what earning level is considered low income. To help you better understand the income thresholds and the government assistance available, we’ve rounded up some helpful tips and resources for those qualifying as low-income.
No matter where you live and how many people are in your household, living below the poverty line can be overwhelming. We’ll go over different government programs available and tips for saving and getting out of debt. Let’s get started and see if your income qualifies for some of the great resources available.
What Is Considered Low Income in the USA?
In the United States, the Census Bureau defines low income as a family whose income level didn’t go over 150% of the national poverty level. In 2020, for example, an individual making less than $12,760 is considered low-income. A two-person household earning under $17,240, and a three-person household earning less than $21,720 qualify as low-income. For a family of four, you’d need to earn less than $26,200 to fall under the low-income threshold.
Do You Qualify As Low Income?
In the United States, poverty and income levels are used to determine eligibility for financial and housing assistance programs. To determine whether you qualify as low income, a few factors need to be considered. First, you’ll need to look at the income for your household. You’ll then take into account your family size and where you live. The cost of living, for example, varies significantly depending on your address.
Limits for qualifications are calculated using median income percentages. There are three categories of low-income determined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development also known as HUD.
The first is low income where you must earn less than 80% of the median income in the U.S. to qualify. To qualify as very low income, you’ll need to earn less than 50% of the median income. To qualify as extremely low, your earnings can’t exceed 30% of the median income or the poverty line in the United States.
You can see the 2021 income limits according to where you live and your household size using this chart. Depending on where you live, the salary of a low-income family may surprise you. In San Francisco, for example, the real estate prices are much higher than the national average. A family of four earning $117,400 a year is considered low income.
What Is Low Income Housing and How Does It Work?
Low-income housing is provided by federal and local governments to help people in poverty and low-income levels afford housing. With low-income housing, a renter will pay a portion of their income towards rent. The remaining rent that isn’t covered gets paid by the state or federal government. Just because you may qualify as low-income, doesn’t mean you’ll receive any low-income housing assistance.
With low-income housing, there are also restrictions on where you live. The programs will also only cover the home if it’s within fair market value. To encourage more affordable housing, a tax credit is often given to buildings and developers who make a portion of their apartments available to low-income renters.
Low-income housing is run by HUD as well as local state governments. HUD offers a variety of assistance programs to renters and homeowners with qualifying incomes. HUD will verify your income as well as the dependents and people living in your home to determine your eligibility.
How to Budget With Low Income
When you have a lower income, budgeting can seem overwhelming. While it may be tough when resources are spread thin, budgeting is key to keeping you on track. If you haven’t already, visit the HUD website to see what housing programs you qualify for. Once you have an adjusted rent you can set your budget for all of your fixed and variable expenses.
Write out all of your expenses on a spreadsheet or piece of paper. Compare this with your income and any assistance you’re receiving. What you’re left with will help you create a budget for your variable expenses such as eating out, groceries, and television, for example. Writing everything out will help you determine where you can cut back and where you can save money.
Money-Saving Tips With Low Income
On a low income, saving money may be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. Start by looking at anything in your budget that you don’t need. Music subscriptions, cable, and fast food are all luxuries. Cancel anything you aren’t using. Make saving automatic by withdrawing money from your checking account directly into your savings account each month.
Having a car when you can walk, is an area you can look at cutting back, for example. If you can cook at home or qualify for free school lunches, do so. Eating out or buying fast food can add up. A $5 a day lunch habit adds up to $1,825 a year.
How To Get Out of Debt With Low Income?
It’s easy to use a credit card when money is tight. If you’ve found yourself in a cycle of debt, making small changes can help. Take your new budget and savings plan and put it into action. Every month take a portion of your savings and put it towards your debts. It’s helpful to go with the lowest hanging fruit to knock it off your plate. Once you pay off your small debts, you can tackle the bigger ones little by little.
Take a portion of your savings each month and put it toward your remaining high-interest debt. While you’re paying off your debt, don’t create more. Stop using your credit cards and don’t use any payday or advancement loans to float you. Speak with your creditors about debt settlements as well. While there are fraudulent companies out there promising to remove your debt, you can negotiate your debt yourself by speaking to a creditor directly.
Oftentimes a creditor would rather hear from you about settling or making smaller payments rather than taking you to collections or pursuing legal actions. These avenues are expensive for a creditor. The more upfront and honest you are, the more likely they are to work with you.
Low-Income Resources and Help
In addition to housing, low-income families have additional resources to help make ends meet. There are supplemental food programs, healthcare assistance, student financial aid, child tax credits, and more. Check out the Federal benefits website for a full list of resources and programs.