GAO Finds Eligibility Rules for Low-Income Assistance Programs “Complex” and “Burdensome”

WASHINGTON, D.C. - At the request of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined eligibility rules for six major federal low-income assistance programs and found these rules to be unduly complex and confusing to applicants and administratively burdensome to federal agencies. In FY 2015, federal funding for these programs was nearly $540 billion.

“This GAO study highlights the need for more efficient and effective government,” said Chairman Enzi. “Many of these programs lack the ability to share data and thus collect duplicate applicant information. There is no standard definition of ‘family’ or ‘household,’ and that there is no standard definition of ‘countable income’ or ‘allowable deductions.’ This results in significant variations in program eligibility. In an era of rising deficits and debt, Congress must consider how best to serve the needs of low-income Americans and hardworking taxpayers. Standardizing eligibility and improving data-sharing in programs like these would be a good place to start.” 

GAO noted that these complexities are largely due to multiple congressional committees approving different statutes at different times, authorizing separate agencies to implement competing policies with varying levels of state involvement.

View the GAO Report on Means-Tested Eligibility Rules HERE

Maximum Monthly Income for Eligibility of Single Parent with Two Children in 2016

Supplemental Security Income


Temporary Assistance for Needy Families


Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

$2,184 (Federal) or $3,360 (BBCE)

Earned Income Tax Credit


Housing Choice Voucher

$2,958 (30% AMI) or $4,925 (50% AMI)


$5,359 (children ages 6 to 18)

BBCE = Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility; AMI = Area Median Income                                                                  Source: GAO-17-558


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