By K.A. Francis
Updated: November 4, 2020
The working poor is a real group of people. Every day, millions of Americans go to work in the hopes of earning enough to support their families. But with a federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and rising costs for food and housing, many families find themselves falling behind. This is why the federal government and states have programs in place to help. The state of Illinois has such programs, and as long as people meet the income requirements, they can receive the help they need.
Minimum Wage Laws
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the federal minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 per hour. All businesses in the U.S. are required to offer their employees at least this amount per hour. States, however, are free to set their own minimum wage, provided it is greater than the federal minimum wage. Illinois has done this, it's minimum wage is $9.25 an hour. However, this still might not be enough for a family to remain above the poverty level.
Federal Poverty Guidelines
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the federal poverty limit for a family of four in the 48 contiguous states is $26,200. For Alaska, it's $32,750 and for Hawaii, it's $30,130. This means a family of four that makes less than these amounts is living in poverty. Most agencies that assist low-income individuals and families use an increased amount, generally 138 percent above the federal poverty limit to determine the benefits for which a family might qualify. Going with that calculation, a family of four that makes $36,156 in the 48 contiguous states, $45,195 in Alaska, and $41,579 in Hawaii would qualify for low-income assistance programs.
Poverty Line Illinois
The poverty level in Illinois is based on the federal level. Illinois uses the federal poverty limit as its base for determining poverty in the state, which means the poverty line for a family of four is $26,200 annually and $2,183 monthly. However, when determining if a family qualifies for benefits such as state healthcare or SNAP, instead of the traditional 138 percent above the federal poverty line calculation, Illinois uses 200 percent above the federal poverty line. So a family of four that earns $4,367 a month or less would qualify for benefits.
Those living in Illinois who are determined to meet the poverty guidelines can apply for assistance in several areas. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka SNAP, is a food assistance program. Families are allotted a certain amount of benefits that can be used to buy food. Another program is the state health insurance program. Families with children who do not have health insurance can get free healthcare. There are also programs that can assist with clothes, housing, childcare assistance for working parents and utility expenses.
Those who live in Illinois who are working but still struggling to make ends meet can seek assistance from the state. If, after providing all required information they are determined to be eligible, help with food, medicine or healthcare could be provided.