The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued updated federal poverty guidelines for 2011. HHS issues the guidelines each year, usually in January or February, in the Federal Register. They are used by states to determine financial eligibility for certain federal programs, including LIHEAP.
The updated guidelines are optional for states to use during FY 2011 and mandatory during FY 2012. The LIHEAP regulations at 45 C.F.R. A 96.85(a) state that grantees shall, by October 1 of each year, or by the beginning of the State fiscal year, whichever is later, adjust their income eligibility criteria so that they are in accord with the most recently published update of the guidelines or estimates.
Last year was an anomaly because HHS did not publish updated guidelines in January. That was because the updates normally reflect increases in the annual average Consumer Price Index (CPI-U), and, as a result, income baselines increase each year. Because there was a decrease in the annual average CPI-U during 2009, Congress allowed HHS to freeze the poverty guidelines at 2009 levels in order to prevent a reduction in eligibility during FY 2010 for certain means-tested programs, including LIHEAP. The guidelines in the 2011 notice reflect a 1.6 percent increase in prices as measured by the Consumer Price Index between calendar years 2009 and 2010.
For more information, see the Federal Register notice, here: http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/11fedreg.shtml