Dear Savvy Senior: 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. — Struggling Grandma
Dear Struggling: Money is often an issue for the millions of U.S. grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. A variety of government programs and tax benefits can help with expenses.
For starters, find out whether your family qualifies for your state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which may include cash assistance, food stamps and free or low-cost daycare. Or, 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. Also, find out if your state offers guardianship subsidies, non-parent grants or kinship care.
Contact your state program (see ACF.HHS.gov/ofa for contact information), or call your county social services office for more information on these programs.
You also need to find out if your grandkids are eligible for Social Security, including benefits for children or survivor benefits. Call 800-772-1213 or visit SSA.gov.
Use BenefitsCheckUp.org, a comprehensive website that lets you search for financial assistance programs, such as lower energy bills, discounts on prescription medications and more.
In addition to the financial assistance programs, a number of tax benefits may help you, like the Dependency Exemption, which allows you to deduct $4,050 in 2107 for each qualifying grandchild.
There’s also the Earned Income Tax Credit, available to those with moderate to low incomes, or the Child Tax Credit if your earnings are higher.
If you’re working, and are incurring childcare expenses in order to work, a Child and Dependent Care Credit can help. And, if you choose to legally adopt your grandkids, an Adoption Credit provides a federal tax credit of up to $13,570.
There are even education-related tax credits that can help your grandkids go to college, like the American Opportunity Tax Credit or 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. Ask for publications 501, 503, 596, 970, 972.
Talk to a family law attorney to discuss legal guardianship, custody or adoption. Without custody, you may not be eligible for many programs, and could encounter problems with things like enrolling your grandkids in school, or giving a doctor permission to treat them.To locate affordable legal assistance, visit FindLegalHelp.org, or call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116. For more information and resources, see the Grandfamilies State Law and Policy Resource Center at GrandFamilies.org.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.