The federal government distributes block grants to each state for the administration of welfare programs. In the fiscal year 2010, 4,375,022 households received welfare assistance in the United States, according to data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. Wide variations in payments exist depending on several factors. The maximum benefit amount varies due to the economic condition of each state and locality, but applicants can calculate a range using a number of resources.
The welfare program supports families and individuals with limited or no income and resources. The program uses a complex calculation to determine eligibility based on federal poverty guidelines. The guidelines require income to fall at or below a percentage of the median annual income in the applicant's metropolitan area. For example, the median annual income for Texas was $59,500 and a family of four could not exceed $17,850, or 30 percent, in income at the time of publication to qualify for welfare. Income plays a significant role in the amount of benefits a recipient receives.
The calculation for cash assistance includes monthly income, the need standard and the payment standard. The need standard varies based on location, family size and shelter costs and it defines the amount of money necessary to support the applicant. The payment standard determines the maximum amount a family can receive considering income and other resources. Each locale determines the standards based on the median annual income for the area. For example, a single-parent family of four in Texas can receive a payment of $312 per month. A two-parent household of four can receive $320 maximum per month. Interested persons can contact their local social services department and request the maximum amount for their situation.
Applicants receive food assistance benefits as part of the welfare program. The maximum monthly amount of benefits a family of four could receive was $668 as of June 2011. But the maximum amount is affected significantly by a recipient's annual income. For example, if a family of four earns $250 per month of countable income, the monthly food payment is reduced to $418.
The combination of food and cash assistance comprise the total monthly benefit amount, which is determined by the applicant's location. A single-parent family of four in Texas with no resources or income would receive a total of $980 per month. Alaska pays the highest percentage of the federal poverty line, at 50 percent, and a family of four could receive up to $1,025 per month in cash assistance alone.