While the question of what's considered low income in California may seem relatively straightforward, there are several different answers that depend on different circumstances. For example, what is considered low income in Los Angeles in 2021 may not be the same as the rest of the state since the L.A. area is so expensive. In addition, what counts as low income is different depending on a household's composition.
What Is Considered Low Income in Los Angeles in 2021?
Different variables impact low-income status in California, and what qualifies individuals and families for assistance differs in different locations. Various government agencies set guidelines for low income and poverty levels. One of the most important is the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). According to HUD, the low income for an individual (family size of one) in the L.A. area in 2021 was $66,250. For a family of three, anything below $85,150 was considered low income in L.A. in 2021.
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HUD also creates tiers of income levels. Low income is their highest tier, followed by the HUD very low-income level, HUD extremely low-income level, and lastly, the federal poverty level. For example, how much is low income for a family of four? The HUD low-income level in 2021 was $94,600, very low income was $59,100, extremely low income was $35,450, and the federal poverty level for a family of four in 2021 was $26,500.
Low Income in Other Parts of California
Los Angeles is a good barometer of income levels for the entire state of California. Even though it is common knowledge that LA is expensive, the median income level falls around the state average, as there are more or less expensive places in the Golden State. The most expensive county in California in terms of median income is San Francisco County. Low income for a family of four in San Francisco County was $146,350, while the extremely low income was $54,800.
In contrast, 20 of the 58 counties in California reported an average median income of $70,700. In those places, the low income for a family of four was $55,900 in 2021, and extremely low was considered anything under $26,500.
To determine your eligibility as a low-income resident of California, you have to prove your income falls below these thresholds. The easiest way to find your income threshold is with your most recent income tax. It is located on form 1040, Line 8b. By comparing that to the state income levels in your county of residence, you can determine whether you fit into the category of low income and whether you qualify for benefits based on that.
How Do You Know if You Qualify as Low-Income?
If you did not file income taxes or if your income has been reduced dramatically since your last filing, you'll need to prove your income another way. You can call the agency from which you're trying to receive benefits and talk to a representative about the best way to document your income. You might need to submit several different kinds of documentation; some examples of what they might ask you to include are recent pay stubs, a letter from your employer or bank statements as requested by the agency.
Thankfully, if you do qualify as low-income or your income falls below certain levels, there are various government programs out there for you to take advantage of. Some examples of programs available to low-income families in California include housing assistance, the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), Medicaid and the earned-income tax credit. The California Employment Development Department provides a list of many others. However, you should bear in mind that these programs may all have their own income thresholds or other qualification standards.