Olivia Schmidt
KU Statehouse Wire Service
A new bill proposed in the Senate on Feb. 21 could take some financial burden off grandparents who are primary caregivers and providers for their grandchildren.
The Kansas Senate Judiciary held a committee meeting to discuss amendments made to SB166, which deems children as foster children under the grandparents as caregivers act.
The bill, which was introduced on Feb. 13, states, “If a person meets the financial eligibility requirements developed by the secretary, a grandparent shall be eligible to participate in the program if such grandparent: (1) Is 40 years of age or older (2) Has the grandchild placed in such grandparents custody by the state, is the legal guardian of the grandchild or has other legal custody of the grandchild; and (3) has an annual household income of less than 300 percent of the federal poverty line.”
The two amendments made to the bill previously required that the grandparent be 50 years of age or older and have an annual household income of less than 130 percent of the federal poverty line. The change in the percentage allows for more grandparents to qualify for the benefits of the program.
Some stipulations with the bill are that the grandparent is not eligible if the parent or parents of the child are living with said grandparent. The grandparents will be required to meet eligibility requirements each year to continue in the program.
With this bill, qualifying grandparents are reimbursed $200 per grandchild per month until they are 18 or reach the age of 21, if the child is in full-time attendance at a secondary school or postsecondary educational institution.
Sen. Randall Hardy (R-Salina) testified in support of the bill. He was invited to attend a group meeting called Grandparents as Parents, which met at the Child Advocacy and Parent Services (CAPS) agency in Salina. Here, he said he was informed about the problem of parents who don’t work out to be adequate parents for their children.
“I attended one of their meetings and it was at the same time heartbreaking and hopeful,” he said.
The parents’ stories moved Hardy, which led to his increased support of the bill. He brought with him a copy of an email sent to him the night before, displaying a first-hand account of a grandparent’s experience.
In the email, Kimberly Dykes, 59, explained how difficult her and her husband’s lives have been without the assistance of this program from the federal government.
“We couldn’t get the parents to sign releases and they would not show up to do any of the needed things for the children,” Dykes wrote. “They did not provide any financial assistance for their children.”
Sen. Vic Miller (D-Topeka) asked about the age restriction at the end of the testimony.
“What would it matter if they were 39 or 40?” Miller asked.
Hardy responded that this was to make the bill palatable, but is something that could be revisited.
Hardy also said the bill is similar to one that didn’t pass in the House. If passed, this bill would take effect on July 1, 2019.
Olivia Schmidt is a University of Kansas senior from Lawrence studying journalism.