Grandparents raising their grandchildren is becoming increasingly common in today’s society. Many are stepping up to provide care and stability for their progeny, whether due to the death or incapacity of the child’s parents, substance abuse, or other reasons.
However, this can be a challenging and stressful emotional and financial task.
Fortunately, various benefits are available to grandparents raising their grandchildren. These programs can provide financial assistance, healthcare coverage, and other forms of support.
Your household size influences eligibility for many of these resources, which you can increase by claiming your grandchildren as dependents on your taxes.
Resources for Grandparents
Grandparents might have various resources to help them with finances as they raise their grandchildren. As with any government program, you must meet the qualifying criteria and apply for every potential benefit you can find.
Government benefits are available to grandparents based on age rather than the additional resources needed to raise their grandchildren. In this arena, other sources of support help make ends meet.
Free government money for seniors over 60 does not always come in a check. In many cases, various programs reduce the cost of everyday living. Older adults can cut expenses for home repairs, utility bills, dental work, rental housing, and more.
Grandparents might be able to get food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: SNAP) for their grandchildren. Each state makes its own rules for this resource, but several requirements apply nationwide.
Apply for food stamps at your state agency, which makes the final determination. Be prepared by knowing the specific criteria for seniors, which apply nationwide and might help or hurt your application.
- Resource limitations are higher for adults over 60
- The elderly can subtract medical expenses from income
- Exempt from work requirements
- Retirement and pension plans may count as income or resources
- Social Security benefits count as income
Childcare assistance might be available to single grandparents needing to work while raising their grandchildren. The federal government establishes the national framework, and each state determines resource eligibility.
Apply for childcare assistance at your state agency, which will determine whether you qualify for one or more of these programs. The agency may consider your percentage of the federal poverty level (FPL).
- Vouchers to help pay for child care while you work
- Early Head Start programs to prepare children for school
- State-funded prekindergarten to prepare kids for kindergarten
Medicaid is a free government resource that grandparents can utilize to cover the health, dental, and vision care expenses for themselves and the grandchildren they are raising. However, the rules vary for adults and minors.
Grandchildren without parents often qualify for Medicaid because most states do not count the income and assets of relative caregivers when determining eligibility.
Apply for Medicaid through healthcare.gov any time of year. You do not have to wait for the annual open enrollment. The minors under your care should qualify, provided they do not have excessive income or assets from these sources.
- Child support payments
- Parental death benefits
- Annuities from private trusts
Grandparents are sometimes eligible for Medicaid as the needy caretaker relative of a qualifying child. The state will count your income and household size when determining eligibility.
Medicaid covers dental work for adults in many states, meaning seniors on Medicare might qualify for crucial oral care benefits by caring for their grandchildren.
Grandparents raising grandchildren should seek assistance through their local Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or a similar name. Each state provides unique benefits, but many offer subsidized guardianship and kinship care resources.
Grandparents might be eligible for subsidized guardianship support through the DCFS in their state.
Subsidized guardianships provide financial assistance to caregivers assuming the legal oversight of a child in out-of-home care. Several states already offer this benefit, including Connecticut, Maryland, and Tennessee.
Grandparents might qualify for financial support through a kinship or certified relative care program supported by the DCFS in their state. A formal kinship care arrangement means the state has legal custody of your grandchildren.
Apply for kinship care benefits by contacting the designated agency in your state. You might receive more generous financial assistance but lose flexibility when deciding about your grandchild’s welfare.
If the grandchild’s parents are deceased, the grandchild may be eligible for Social Security resources, which can help alleviate some of the financial burdens on the grandparents.
You cannot apply for Social Security survivor benefits online as funeral homes report deaths to the SSA. However, you can follow up by phone to claim two possible resources for your orphaned grandchildren.
- One-time lump-sum death payment
- Monthly benefits for an unmarried child of the deceased
Grants for Grandparents
Grandparents raising grandchildren are unlikely to find grants as federal agencies award the free money to non-profit organizations and state agencies, not individuals. However, they can apply for available benefits through the recipients.
Grandparents can apply for individual grants but are unlikely to find many because the government awards the money to institutions rather than directly to people. However, adding your grandchildren to your household size improves your FPL-based qualifications for many programs.
Free grant money for bills and personal use is possible if you apply for benefits at the recipient agency. You can readily lower costs for housing, groceries, energy, internet, medical, repair, and water bills.
Home Improvement Grants
Grandparents raising grandchildren can apply for home improvement grants available through the Weatherization Assistance Program, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and elements from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act.
Seniors are often eligible for home improvement grants due to their paltry fixed incomes. Add in additional household members that they must feed and clothe, and their ability to qualify skyrockets for many energy-saving enhancements.
- Roof repair or replacement
- HVAC equipment replacement
- Water heater
- Air conditioning
- Appliance upgrades
- Electric stoves
- Heat pump dryers
- Window and door improvements
- New smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Grandparents might be able to get grants through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF provides monthly cash payments to qualifying households.
Apply for TANF by contacting your state agency, which makes final determinations. There are two qualification levels nationwide.
- Child-only grants consider only the income and needs of the dependent, resulting in smaller cash payments
- Family grants are more generous while discarding the work requirement for adults over 60
Pell grants available through the Department of Education might help grandparents pay some of their grandchildren’s college expenses.
Federal Pell grants are awarded only to undergraduate students with exceptional financial needs without a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.
The maximum amount you can get is just above $7,000, but it could be less depending on several factors.
- Your Expected Family Contribution
- The cost of attendance as determined by your school
- Your status as a full-time or part-time student
- Their plans to attend for a full academic year or less
Tax Savings for Grandparents
Grandparents taking care of their grandchildren often qualify for IRS-approved tax savings. Plus, claiming their progeny as dependents increases their household size, expanding the availability of many government benefits.
Grandparents claiming grandchildren as dependents on their taxes improve eligibility for various government benefits mentioned above. Many programs consider your Federal Poverty Level (FPL) percentage, which matrixes household size with income.
|Household Size||Income Limit|
As you can see, each additional household member increases the income limit by $5,140. In most cases, a qualifying person is someone claimed as a dependent on your taxes.
The IRS rules for claiming dependents include the following.
- Under 18 at the end of the year
- Descendant of a son or daughter
- Lived with you for more than half the year
- You provided more than half of their support
Grandparents raising grandchildren might qualify for four possible tax credits, reducing the amount of money sent to the IRS annually. You might be eligible for each of these credits if you claim your progeny as dependents.
- The Child Tax Credit (CTC) is worth $2,000 per qualifying dependent
- The Child and Dependent Care Credit for those employed
- The Earned Income Tax Credit could increase the size of your refund
- Adoption credit and assistance could be worth up to $14,890 per child