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Savvy Senior: Money-saving tips for grandparents raising grandkids

Dear Savvy Senior: Can you recommend any programs that financially help grandparents who are raising their grandkids? I’m raising two of my grandchildren and could use some help. — Tapped-Out Tonya

Dear Tonya: Money is a common problem for the nearly 2.4 million U.S. grandparents who are raising grandchildren. To help with day-to-day expenses, there are a wide variety of programs and tax benefits that can make a big difference in stretching your budget. Here’s where to look for help:

Financial assistance

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 benefits, utility bill assistance and free or low-cost day care. Or if your household income is too high to qualify as a family, ask about the “child-only grant” for just the grandkids’ support alone.

Also, check to see if you’re eligible for foster care payments as a relative caregiver, or if your state offers additional programs such as guardianship subsidies, nonparent grants or kinship care. Adoption assistance payments are also available to adopted grandchildren with special needs.

To inquire about these programs, contact your state’s TANF program and its Department of Human Services. See ACF.hhs.gov.

You also need to see if your grandkids are eligible for Social Security, including benefits for dependent children, survivor benefits or SSI — visit SSA.gov or call 800-772-1213. And find out if they’re eligible for free to low-cost health or dental coverage through your state’s Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program — InsureKidsNow.gov or 877-543-7669.

You can also use Benefits.gov, the official benefits website of the U.S. government, which has a screening tool to help you determine eligibility and apply for programs.

Tax benefits

There are also a range of tax benefits that you may qualify for such as the earned income tax credit, which is available to those with moderate to low incomes, and the child tax credit, which is worth $2,000 per dependent child under age 17.

If you’re working, and are incurring child care expenses in order to work, there’s a child and dependent care credit. And if you’ve legally adopted your grandkids, there’s an adoption tax credit that provides a federal tax credit of up to $16,810 in 2024.

You can also deduct medical and dental expenses if you and your dependent grandchildren’s health care cost exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. There are even education-related tax credits that can help your grandkids go to college, such as the American opportunity tax credit and the lifetime learning tax credit.

Legal help

If you haven’t already done so, you should also talk to an 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 these financial assistance programs, and there can be problems with basic things such as enrolling your grandkids in school or giving a doctor permission to treat them.

For help locating affordable or free legal assistance, go to FindLegalHelp.org.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.

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