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Archive for Friday, May 19, 2006

Bill provides help for grandparents who have custody of grandchildren

May 19, 2006

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— Grandparents raising grandchildren would get a helping hand from the state under legislation that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is expected to sign.

The new aid is part of a wide-ranging bill upping what nursing care residents can keep from their Social Security checks and barring hunting and fishing licenses for parents behind in child support payments.

Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said Thursday the money for the program already is in the budget to finance state government after July 1 and the governor plans to sign the legislation before the May 26 deadline.

Under the proposal, grandparents with legal custody of a grandchild would receive $200 a month, with a limit of $600 for three. To qualify, grandparents must be at least 50 years old with a household income of less than 130 percent of the federal poverty level, or $21,580 for a household of three.

Such a program would allow more children from troubled families to be raised by grandparents rather than being placed in state custody and foster homes.

"It provides some additional support for grandparents who have stepped up to take care of their grandchildren in the absence of a parent," said Kyle Kessler, Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services spokesman. "If it prevents the children from coming into our custody, we have already won."

By comparison, SRS pays about $600 for a foster child, but Kessler said a lot of grandparents don't want to join the foster care program.

"They would rather have custody and caring for the child themselves rather than having some state agency involved," Kessler said.

He said $2.1 million has been earmarked for the program to cover children up to age 18, or 21 if they're still enrolled in school. If there's no grandparent, the program could be used by another close relative raising the child.

Census Bureau data from 2004 estimated that nearly 34,000 grandparents in Kansas had grandchildren under 18 living with them. Kessler estimated about 1,400 families and 2,400 children would qualify for the program.

The bill also allows patients in Medicaid-approved facilities to keep $50 from the Social Security check that goes to the facility. For the last 18 years, the amount has been $30, to be used for a variety of personal needs.

"It's a wonderful thing for more than 11,000 Kansas residents on Medicaid. We were one of only 11 states at $30," said Maren Turner, AARP Kansas director.

The bill also would allow SRS to asked the Department of Wildlife and Parks to deny hunting and fishing licenses to parents who are behind in their court-order child support payments by about $500 until they have paid or made plans to pay.

On Wednesday, the governor signed a bill restricting driver's licenses of parents who are more than $500 behind in child support. Parents could drive only to and from school or work or in case of a medical emergency until they have made their payments or set up a payment plan with the state.

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