Thursday, August 12, 2010

HHS Updates Poverty Income Guidelines 2010

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has published poverty guidelines for the remainder of 2010, which are effective August 3, 2010, unless an office administering a program using the guidelines specifies a different effective date for that particular program. The 2010 guidelines will remain in effect until the HHS publishes the 2011 poverty guidelines. Since the publication of the 2010 poverty guidelines was delayed, the HHS based its update on the percentage change in the average CPI-U from calendar year 2008 to the period beginning with January 2009 and ending on May 31, 2010. The percentage increase in the CPI-U for this period was so small that, after the rounding procedure used in the calculations, the guidelines remained unchanged from the 2009 guidelines.

The poverty guidelines are broken down into three categories: (1) poverty guidelines for the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia, (2) poverty guidelines for Alaska, and (3) poverty guidelines for Hawaii. The 2010 guidelines (like the 2009 guidelines) set the poverty level for the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia at $10,830 for one person with $3,740 for each additional person in the household. For Alaska, the poverty level remains at $13,530 for one person with $4,680 for each additional person in the household, and, for Hawaii, it remains at $12,460 for one person with $4,300 for each additional person.

In the immigration context, the guidelines are relevant for “public charge” issues, among others, and may also be useful in obtaining waivers of some application fees for certain indigent aliens, such as applicants for temporary protected status.   They are particularly important, however, in complying with the affidavit of support requirements imposed by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA).

The IIRIRA created INA § 213A [8 USCA § 1183a], which provides that sponsors of all family-based and some employment-based immigrants must provide a legally enforceable affidavit (Form I-864) illustrating that they are capable of maintaining an annual income equal to at least 125% of the HHS poverty guidelines. The sponsor must meet the 125% requirement at the time when the immigrant visa or adjustment of status application is made. This calculation takes into account the total “family unit” for which the sponsor will be responsible, defined by INA § 213A(f)(6)(A)(iii) as “members of the sponsor's household (including family and non-family dependents) plus the total number of other dependents and aliens sponsored by that sponsor.”  Thus, according to the 2010 poverty guidelines, as with the 2009 guidelines, an individual in one of the 48 contiguous states or the District of Columbia would need an income of $13,537.50 for one person and $4,675 for each additional household member so that an individual who has four family members and wishes to sponsor an immigrant parent would be required to show an annual income of $36,912.50--a figure equal to 125% of the $29,530 poverty income level for a family of six. Consular officers and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicators, however, may still take into account an alien's ability to provide for himself or herself and any special circumstances, such as the need for medical treatment or other financial obligations, in determining whether the alien is likely to become a public charge.

The 2010 guidelines, while otherwise effective on the date of publication, do not become effective as to affidavits of support until October 1, 2010, pursuant to a USCIS regulation that provides that USCIS and the Department of State will not apply the new guidelines until “the first day of the second month after the date the guidelines are published in the Federal Register.” However, this has no practical effect since the 2010 guidelines are the same as the 2009 guidelines.

NOTE: The poverty guideline figures below are NOT the figures the Census Bureau uses to calculate the number of poor persons.
The figures that the Census Bureau uses are the poverty thresholds.

The 2010 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $10,830
2 14,570
3 18,310
4 22,050
5 25,790
6 29,530
7 33,270
8 37,010
For families with more than 8 persons, add $3,740 for each additional person.

2010 Poverty Guidelines for Alaska
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $13,530
2 18,210
3 22,890
4 27,570
5 32,250
6 36,930
7 41,610
8 46,290
For families with more than 8 persons, add $4,680 for each additional person.

2010 Poverty Guidelines for Hawaii
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $12,460
2 16,760
3 21,060
4 25,360
5 29,660
6 33,960
7 38,260
8 42,560
For families with more than 8 persons, add $4,300 for each additional person.

SOURCE:  Federal Register, Vol. 75, No. 148, August 3, 2010, pp. 45628–45629

The separate poverty guidelines for Alaska and Hawaii reflect Office of Economic Opportunity administrative practice beginning in the 1966-1970 period.  Note that the poverty thresholds — the original version of the poverty measure — have never had separate figures for Alaska and Hawaii.  The poverty guidelines are not defined for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau.  In cases in which a Federal program using the poverty guidelines serves any of those jurisdictions, the Federal office which administers the program is responsible for deciding whether to use the contiguous-states-and-D.C. guidelines for those jurisdictions or to follow some other procedure.

The poverty guidelines apply to both aged and non-aged units.  The guidelines have never had an aged/non-aged distinction; only the Census Bureau (statistical) poverty thresholds have separate figures for aged and non-aged one-person and two-person units.

Programs using the guidelines (or percentage multiples of the guidelines — for instance, 125 percent or 185 percent of the guidelines) in determining eligibility include Head Start, the Food Stamp Program, the National School Lunch Program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Note that in general, cash public assistance programs (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income) do NOT use the poverty guidelines in determining eligibility.  The Earned Income Tax Credit program also does NOT use the poverty guidelines to determine eligibility.  For a more detailed list of programs that do and don’t use the guidelines, see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

The computations for the poverty guidelines for the remainder of 2010 are available.
The poverty guidelines may be formally referenced as “the poverty guidelines updated periodically in the Federal Register by the U.S. Department of Health and

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