How Much Money Can a Family Make & Still Get Government Benefits?

Many federal programs of assistance are in place to help families suffering inadequate income. Income guidelines vary depending on the specific program. Some programs are meant specifically for families with young children, while others target those with elderly or disabled people in the home. You may have to fulfill work requirements in order to receive help.

Food Stamps

The food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) offers monthly assistance for buying food. Benefits are deposited onto a debit card provided by the state to be used at the register just like a bank card. As of 2011, a family of three can make no more than $1,984 a month before deductions to qualify, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Income caps rise with family size. A family of six can make no more than $3,200 a month.

Cash Assistance

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a cash assistance program. The amount of assistance you qualify for is loaded onto the same debit card you use for food stamps, only this time you're allowed to withdraw cash at the register or at an ATM. TANF can be used for basic items like clothing, bills and utility payments. A family of three can qualify if it brings in no more than $1,079 a month before deductions, and a family of six can earn no more than $1,739 a month.


The Social Security Administration oversees a program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This program gives cash to families on a monthly basis to help with basic necessities. Applicants must be either blind, disabled or at least 65 years old and facing financial difficulties. A spouse or even a child who is blind or disabled may qualify. The income cap for a family is $2,107 a month in earned income (job, self-employment) or $1,031 a month in unearned income (workers' comp, veteran's benefits). The office will consider a combination of both.


WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children. The goal of this program is to help women and their children, ages 5 and under, who are at risk of nutritional deficit. Participants receive WIC vouchers for specific food items at the grocery store, including milk, cheese, tuna, cereal, beans and juice. Income guidelines are less stringent than other programs: a family of three can earn up to $2,823 and qualify, and a family of six can earn up to $4,553 and qualify.