The Department of Health and Welfare’s executive leadership team conferenced first thing this morning with Vicki Turetsky, commissioner for the federal Office of Child Support and Enforcement (OCSE). The topic— what will happen to the Idaho Child Support program after the Idaho Legislature’s failure to approve a bill allowing the state to meet minimum federal program requirements.
Commissioner Turetsky was very clear in her response—she will send out a letter by the end of the week giving Idaho 60 days to correct the action and meet federal compliance. If Idaho does not fix it, the state will receive a second notification letter that all federal child support funding ceases and access to all enforcement tools will be turned off. This would affect every one of the 155,000 child support cases the Idaho Child Support Program handles, which will impact more than 400,000 Idaho children and parents.
That funding totals more than $16 million, over two-thirds of Idaho’s costs for child support administration. More importantly, the main tools the program uses to enforce child support orders and collect funds for children will be shut off. We will no longer be able to collect funds through wage withholding, locate parents when they change jobs, or work with other states on child support cases. Turning off the databases and tools would bring Idaho’s child support program to its knees.
“Replacing the money will not help. We could be given all the money in the world, but it would not allow us to collect and distribute child support payments if those federal tools are not available,” said Kandee Yearsley, Idaho’s Child Support Program manager. “Commissioner Turetsky was very helpful and sympathetic to our situation, but the actions the federal government will take are prescribed by law. There is no turning back if Idaho cannot come up with a solution during the next 60 days.”
If Idaho does not have a federal child support program, other ramifications will occur. The Federal Child Support Program is required to participate in other federal programs. For example, Idaho would lose its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant, which funds more than $30 million of vital services that include child care for low-income working families, work and training programs, Family and Community Services, children’s mental health, emergency assistance, and the Head Start Program.
“We have to share with others the full impact and the ripple effect losing the Child Support Program will have for our state—it is critical that the severity of the situation be understood,” said Director Richard Armstrong. “We need to quickly resolve this dilemma, especially for our families who rely on child support and other critical services in our state.”
— Tom Shanahan, PIO