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Poverty and poor health have a strong link. Empirical evidence suggests that the higher an individual’s income, the better their health status—and there is no threshold where higher income does not equal better health. Individuals with lower incomes are found to have increased levels of morbidity, mortality, and risk-taking behaviors.

Also important to an individual’s health status are the resources available in their community. For example, when individuals do not have access to transportation, healthy food options, or health care services within their community, health status declines. Psychosocial effects also play a role in an individual’s health. Individuals with low-income are more likely to have experienced traumatic life events, experience neighborhood violence and unrest, and experience stress. In order to address these needs, the U.S. federal government offers four income assistance programs that provide cash benefits:

  1. Supplement Security Income (SSI)
  2. Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF)
  3. Earned Income Tax Credits
  4. Pell Grants

This report examines the differences between available income assistance programs; total spending on the programs; the average benefit, number of beneficiaries, and trends in spending; and participation.

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