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About Program Income and Public Assistance

Public assistance refers to assistance programs that provide either cash assistance or in-kind benefits to individuals and families from any governmental entity.

There are two major types of public assistance programs; social welfare programs and social insurance programs. 

Benefits received from social welfare programs are usually based on a low income means-tested eligibility criteria. 

Some of the major federal, state, and local social welfare programs are:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), including Pass through Child Support
  • General Assistance (GA)

Benefits received from social insurance programs are usually based on eligibility criteria such as age, employment status, or being a veteran.

Some of the major federal, state, and local social insurance programs are:

  • Social security (self and on behalf of a dependent child)
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs benefits (except Veteran's pension)
  • Unemployment insurance compensation
  • Workers' compensation

Most of the information available on public assistance comes from data collected in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and is available as reports and statistical briefs, table packages, and working papers. 

In addition, micro-level SIPP panel data, technical documentation, and topical modules for the SIPP panels are available on the SIPP website. 

The Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement and the American Community Surveys also provide some data on public assistance receipt.

Contact Us

Please see our list of contacts to help decide which is best for you.

Are You in a Survey?

If you received a survey, like the American Community Survey or Annual Retail Trade, Are You in a Survey? will provide information to help verify, complete, and submit your form. For respondent concerns, please contact the Census Bureau's Respondent Advocate.

Are You a Data User?

Here are Subject/Topic Contacts at the U.S. Census Bureau. You may reach out to Regional Contacts, including State Data Centers and Census Information Centers.

Other Contacts

Call Center: 301-763-INFO (4636) or 800-923-8282

TDD: TTY users can dial 1-800-877-8339 to use the Federal Relay Service

News media: 301-763-3030

Page Last Revised - May 12, 2023
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