Financial Help for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Are there any financial assistance programs that can help grandparents who are raising their grandkids? I'm raising two grandchildren and could use some help.
Money is often an issue for the millions of U.S. grandparents who are raising their grandchildren today. To help with day-to-day expenses, there are a variety of government programs and tax benefits that can make a big difference in stretching your budget. Here's where to look for help.
Financial Assistance Programs
For starters, find out whether your family qualifies for your state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which may include cash assistance, food stamps and free or low-cost daycare. If your household income is too high to qualify as a family, ask about the "child-only grant" for just the grandchild's support alone. You should also find out if your state offers any additional programs like guardianship subsidies, non-parent grants or kinship care.
Contact your state's TANF program (see ACF.HHS.gov/ofa for contact information) or call your county's social services office for more information about these programs.
You should also determine if your grandkids are eligible for Social Security benefits, including benefits for children, survivor benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You can find this out by visiting your local Social Security office or by calling 800-772-1213 or visit SSA.gov.
Also, check out BenefitsCheckUp.org, a comprehensive website that allows you to search for additional financial assistance programs or discounts that you may be eligible for, such as discounts on energy bills and prescription medications.
In addition to the financial assistance programs, there are also a number of tax benefits that may help. For example, the Dependency Exemption allows you to deduct $4,050 for each qualifying grandchild in 2017.
There is also the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is available in 2017 to those with moderate to low incomes. The Child Tax Credit is also available in 2017 for those who earn too much money to qualify for the EITC.
If you are employed and are incurring childcare expenses, the Child and Dependent Care Credit may save you money on your 2017 return. Also, if you choose to legally adopt your grandkids, there is an Adoption Credit that provides a federal tax credit of up to $13,570 in 2017.
There are also education-related tax credits available if your grandchildren attended college in 2017. These credits include the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit.
To learn more about these tax benefits, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or visit IRS.gov. You can also call the IRS publication line at 800-829-3676 and ask them to mail you the publications that further explain the aforementioned benefits for your 2017 tax return. Ask for publications 501, 503, 596, 970, 972. Also be aware that these credits and benefits could change in 2018 pending any tax law changes.
If your grandchildren need health insurance, depending on your income level, you may be eligible for free or low-cost health insurance through your state's Medicaid Program and the Children's Health Insurance Program. See InsureKidsNow.gov or call 877-543-7669 for more information.
You also should consider speaking to a family law attorney to discuss the pros and cons of obtaining legal guardianship, custody or adoption. Without some sort of legal custody, you may not be eligible for many of the previously listed financial assistance programs. You may also face problems with basic things like enrolling your grandchildren in school or giving a doctor permission to provide medical assistance. For help locating affordable or free legal assistance, visit www.FindLegalHelp.org or call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 for referrals.
For more information and resources, see the Grandfamilies State Law and Policy Resource Center at GrandFamilies.org.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.