Buncombe County Benefits Cliff

Types of Benefits

Food and Nutrition Services

Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), previously known as food stamps and federally referred to as SNAP, provides low-income families with cash assistance for food.  Families receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Card that is pre-loaded monthly with their benefit amount.  They can then use this card at grocery stores to buy food.

Work First Cash Assistance

North Carolina’s Work First Cash Assistance Program, called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) federally, provides cash assistance and job training to low income families. 

Housing Choice Voucher

The Housing Choice Voucher program, often referred to as Section 8 vouchers, is administered by the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville and provides rent subsidies to low-income households. Families can choose any housing in the private market, assuming the owner agrees to rent under the program.  In general, families must pay 10% of their gross income or 30% of their adjusted gross income in rent and the housing voucher covers the rest.

North Carolina Child Care Subsidy

The North Carolina Child Care Subsidy Program provides subsidized child care to families using state and federal funds.  Most families pay 10% of their gross income in child care costs and the subsidy program covers the rest, up to a given maximum.

For a 0-5 year old to initially qualify for subsidies, a household’s income must fall under 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or $4,417 for a family of four.  If a household’s income rises above this level, but still falls under 85% of the state median income ($5,719 for a family of four), the children can continue receiving subsidies for an additional year.

Smart Start

Smart Start child care scholarships are managed by Buncombe Partnership for Children and mirror NC child care subsidies.  They are scholarships that help pay for child care and are available to children 0-5.   Guardians must generally pay a copay equaling 10% of household income.   Like NC child care subsidies, the initial eligibility threshold is 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

WIC is formally called the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.  It provides food for women, infants, and children under five through an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card that can be used at grocery stores. WIC participants also receive coupons for use at farmers’ markets.

North Carolina Medicaid / Health Choice

The benefits cliff simulator combines three North Carolina health insurance programs: (1) Medicaid for Families with Dependent Children, (2) Medicaid for Infants and Children, and (3) NC Health Choice.  Here’s an overview of each program:

  • Medicaid for Families with Dependent Children (MAF): Full Medicaid coverage for parents, caretakers relatives, and spouses who are caring for a related child under 18 in their household.  The family must be very low income.  For example, the monthly income of a family of four cannot exceed $744.
  • Medicaid for Infants and Children (MIF):  Full Medicaid coverage for children 18 and under living in low-income households.  Children under 6 receive coverage when their family income is less than 210% of the federal poverty level, while children 6 to 18 gain coverage when their family income is less than 133% of the federal poverty level.
  • NC Health Choice:  Limited Medicaid coverage for children 6 to 18 who live with families earning too much to qualify for Medicaid for Infants and Children.  Family income must fall under 210% of the federal poverty level to qualify for NC Health Choice.  The reason that only children 6 to 18 qualify for the program is because children 1 to 5 will qualify for Medicaid for Infants and Children.  This is because Medicaid for Infants Children and NC Health Choice have the same income threshold for children 1 to 5, and children eligible for both  must elect Medicaid for Infants and Children.

Families with incomes between 100% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines may also qualify for health insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  ACA tax credits help mitigate the cost of health insurance purchased on the ACA marketplace.  Our simulator does not account for ACA tax credits, but their availability could turn the Medicaid / NC Health Choice cliff into a slope for some.

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