At any one time in the U.S., up to 15 percent of the population is living below the federal poverty line and lack the amount of money necessary to provide basic essentials such as food and accommodation. The federal Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for administering programs to assist people in poverty, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicare and Medicaid. In West Virginia, the Department of Health and Human Resources administers these programs for the federal government.
Formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, helps 43.6 million people each month to buy food. It provides low-income recipients of the program with a debit-type card, which they can use to purchase groceries at participating stores. The program assists many recipients making the transition from welfare to work.
To qualify for SNAP, monthly income maximums depend on household size. For example, the gross monthly income for a person living alone is $1,307 as of 2017; for two people it is $1,760; and for three people it is $2,213. Households may have $2,250 in countable assets, such as a bank account, or $3,500 if at least one person is age 60 or older or is disabled. The Food and Nutrition Service states that certain resources are not counted, such as the primary residence, the resources of people who receive Supplemental Security Income, the resources of people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and most retirement plans.
Medicaid is a federal and state-funded health insurance program for low-income and needy people. It covers children, the aged and those with disabilities, who are eligible to receive federally assisted income maintenance payments.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau for Medical Services administers the West Virginia's Medicaid program, known as Mountain Health Choices (MHC). Eligibility for MHC is complex. Annual income maximums depend on household size. For example, the annual maximum income for a person living alone is $15,800 as of 2017; for two people it is $21,307; and for three people it is $26,813. To be eligible for Medicaid in West Virginia, you must be a resident of the state, a U.S. national, citizen, permanent resident or legal alien who needs assistance with health care and insurance and whose financial situation is either low income or very low income. You also have to meet one or more of the following standards:
- Parent or caretaker for a dependent under the age of 19
- Have a disability
- Have a family member in your household with disability
- 65 years old or older
Applying for benefits can be complex, and the eligibility criteria can be difficult to understand. West Virginia's Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) staff can assist people to determine if they qualify for assistance at its offices, which are based in each county. To find office locations, visit the DHHR website and click on a county (see Resources).
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Holly Johns attained a graduate degree in communications from Oxford University in 1987, and started writing professionally shortly thereafter. She has more than 20 years of experience in journalism and public and media relations, and has been published widely in publications, including "The Guardian," "The Daily Mail," "U.S. Stars and Stripes," and "Time Out London."