Center for Community Futures
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      The Poverty Program Matrix is a map of the complex and fragmented landscape of federal programs that provide assistance to low-income individuals, families and communities. An overview matrix of programs begins on page 5 and the funding level matrix, by program, begins on page 41. Depending on how one defines “anti-poverty” programs, there are as many as 800 federal programs that, in some way, assist poor and near-poor populations. The Poverty Program Matrix Project initially identified those programs through a keyword search of the Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). Cross-references with other sources, including authorizing legislation, National Association for State Community Services Programs annual reports, and, an internet-based database of public benefits programs, yielded a significantly smaller list of programs.

    A final review identified 125 programs with a stated purpose in legislation or other documents that includes assistance to low-income populations. Programs not in the Matrix include those that assist populations with characteristics that might result in or from poverty, if the programs do not specifically target low-income individuals, families or communities for assistance. In addition, programs that address circumstances that may disproportionately affect low-income families are not included if those programs do not specifically aim services at poor and near poor populations.

For example, programs that provide assistance only to rural communities and Native Americans are excluded from the Matrix, even though many rural and native communities experience problems associated with poverty. In addition, the following types of services and programs are not included in the Matrix:

bulletChild welfare services
bulletChild support enforcement programs
bulletPrograms for people with disabilities
bulletPrograms serving seniors
bulletVeterans programs
bulletDisaster relief programs
bulletPrograms addressing juvenile delinquency and gang prevention
bulletYouth development programs

The 125 programs in the Matrix are administered by 23 agencies within the following 13 federal departments:

bulletAppalachian Regional Commission
bulletCorporation for National and Community Service
bulletDepartment of Agriculture
bulletDepartment of Education
bulletDepartment of Energy
bulletDepartment of Health and Human Services
bulletDepartment of Homeland Security
bulletDepartment of Housing and Urban Development
bulletDepartment of Labor
bulletDepartment of the Treasury
bulletDepartment of Transportation
bulletNational Credit Union Administration
bulletSmall Business Administration
bulletSocial Security Administration

    Because there are numerous agencies and departments administering anti-poverty programs, there are numerous administrative and funding rules, reporting requirements, and information systems. These discrete systems can impede efforts to integrate and coordinate program eligibility and service delivery and add to the already complex landscape of programs encountered by poor and near-poor families and communities.

    In FY 2005, agencies will spend more than $387,000,000,000 on low-income assistance programs and services. Fifty-six programs spend their funds through formula grants; 46 through categorical (project) grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements; and 12 through direct payments to individuals and private institutions. Other funding mechanisms include loans; loan guarantees; the sale, exchange or donation of property or goods; tax credits, advisory services and conferences. Agencies also fund the use of federal personnel to perform certain tasks for the benefit of communities and individuals. Several of the programs use a combination of funding mechanisms to provide assistance.

    Recipients of the funds include state, local, and territorial governmental agencies; community-based nonprofit and for-profit organizations; coalitions of public and private organizations; elementary, secondary and postsecondary educational institutions; and individuals or households. Each program in the Poverty Program Matrix has its own rules regarding the flow of funds to recipients, beginning with the federal agency authorized to administer the program. In some instances, funds flow directly to state agencies; in other instances, they must go through the governor’s office and then to the state agency. The funds may support state-administered programs, may be allocated to local governmental agencies, or they may be distributed through grants, contracts or cooperative agreements to private non-profit or for-profit organizations. Depending upon the program, the federal agency, state, or locality may determine administrative rules, reporting requirements, eligibility requirements and systems, etc.

    Differences in funding streams and program rules are common even in programs that are closely linked by target population and services. For instance, Food Stamps, Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provide assistance to many of the same beneficiaries. Despite efforts at the federal and state levels to coordinate and simplify eligibility systems, the funding stream for each program differs. Food Stamp administrative funds are provided to states to help defray the costs of running the program; Food Stamp benefit funds go through the state to eligible beneficiaries, as determined by the federal government. Medicaid is funded jointly by the federal government and the states; federal funds are provided to states based upon a state plan. States reimburse providers for health services received by beneficiaries who meet state eligibility guidelines. TANF funds are distributed to the state as block grants and beneficiaries receive assistance based upon state-determined eligibility requirements which may or may not be consistent with the state-determined requirements for Medicaid.

    Beneficiaries of each of the other programs in the Matrix also are identified by eligibility criteria specific to each program. In some instances, the federal government has coordinated eligibility criteria across programs to ease access to services. In most cases, however, criteria differ among the programs. As a result, many of the same families who may confront dissimilarities in eligibility criteria and determination procedures in the TANF, Medicaid and Food Stamp programs, may have to navigate inconsistent, and often complicated, criteria to receive housing, utility, child care and other types of assistance.

    For example, according to program data collected for the Poverty Program Matrix, low-income standards vary among housing assistance programs. Furthermore, complex and confusing eligibility criteria can be an additional roadblock to the receipt of these important benefits. Community Development Block Grants are intended to develop viable urban communities and provide decent housing and a suitable living environment for low and moderate income families. For non-metropolitan areas, low and moderate income is generally defined as 80 percent of the median income for nonmetropolitan areas of the state, adjusted for family size. For metropolitan areas, low-and moderate-income is generally defined as a member of a family having an income equal to or less than the Section 8 low-income limit established by HUD. Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, which are intended to aid very low income families in obtaining decent, safe, and sanitary rental housing defines “very low income families” as those with an income that does not exceed 50 percent of the median income for the area as determined by the Secretary with adjustments for smaller and larger families. In some instances, lower income families with an income that does not exceed 80 percent of the median income for the area, adjusted for smaller and larger families, are eligible.

A slightly different definition of low-income is used in the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME Program). The HOME Program is intended to expand the supply of affordable housing, particularly rental housing, for low and very low income families. For rental housing, at least 90 percent of HOME funds must benefit low and very low income families at 60 percent of the area median income; the remaining ten percent must benefit families below 80 percent of the area median.

Assistance to homeowners and homebuyers must be to families below 80 percent of the area median.

In addition, many families may need assistance with energy costs. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) makes grants to states and other jurisdictions to assist eligible households to meet the costs of home energy.

Weatherization Assistance for Low-Income Persons helps insulate the dwellings of low income persons, particularly the elderly, persons with disabilities, families with children, high residential energy users, and households with a high energy burden, in order to conserve needed energy and to aid those persons least able to afford higher utility costs. LIHEAP provides assistance to households with incomes up to the greater of 150 percent of the poverty level or 60 percent of the State median income. States may set the eligibility at a lower level. To be eligible for weatherization assistance households must have a combined income that is at or below 125 percent of the poverty level. To improve program coordination, states have the option to provide weatherization assistance to all homes that receive energy assistance. However, many of these same low-income households would not be eligible for housing assistance given the lower eligibility standards for the HUD programs. Therefore, as a result of the disconnected nature of these programs, critical housing needs may remain unmet.

The food and nutrition, education, child care, workforce development, energy, health care, economic development and housing programs documented in the Poverty Program Matrix have a common objective--to improve the lives of low-income families and communities. The Matrix illustrates, however, that they lack a common path to achieve that objective. For example, they have disparate funding mechanisms, applicant eligibility, funds allocation processes, and beneficiary eligibility criteria. In some instances these differences result in conflicting requirements for administering agencies, service providers, and beneficiaries. More often, they result in duplicative services, service gaps, and barriers to service delivery that compromise efforts to move individuals, families and communities out of poverty.

[Note: this same data is made available in Microsoft Excel file]  

Click on the links below to view tables:

    Table 1. Overview -- Agency, Program, Program Purpose and Beneficiaries

    Table 2. Program, Agency, Type of Assistance, and FY05 Funding Level

    Table 3. Program, Agency, Type of Funding and Applicant Eligibility

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Appendix A (21st Century Model to Address Poverty)
Appendix B (Poverty Programs Summary and Matrix)
Appendix C  (Issue Papers)
Appendix C1 (
Initiative context presentation: Characteristics of Successful Change)
Appendix D  (Income and Work Support Policies and Strategies)
Appendix D1 (Working Session Descriptions)
Appendix D2 (Working Session Descriptions, continued)
Appendix E  (Working Session Descriptions, continued)
Appendix E1  
Appendix E2 (Current state presentation: Highlights from the research)
Appendix F (Participant List)
Appendix G (Project Staff List)


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