"Low-income" is a designation used by government agencies to help needy individuals and families. Different states have different low-income guidelines, based on the average cost of living in the area. Washington state does not use a single number to designate individuals and families as low-income. The number varies by program and by family size.
Programs Determine Cutoffs
Some assistance programs in Washington have very strict low-income guidelines. For example, as of 2014, a family of four had to have $23,850 or less in annual income to qualify for Head Start or Early Head Start. To qualify for heating assistance, or LIHEAP, a Washington family of four can have no more than $29,813 in annual income. However, some programs are open to families that make a little more. A family of four earning $44,123 or less could qualify for funding through WIC (Women, Infants and Children ), while a family of four making $71,550 or less could qualify for Washington's Children's Health Insurance Program. All of these figures were valid as of 2014. They are routinely revised to keep pace with inflation.
Income Guideline Determination
Washington determines who is and is not low-income by comparing earnings against federal poverty guidelines or typical income for the state. For example, Washington residents may be eligible for government assistance in weatherizing their house if they make 200 percent of the federal poverty level or less, or 60 percent or less of Washington's state median income. However, those who earn 125 percent of the federal poverty level or less get top priority when the state decides who to help.