Loss of federal tools would severely hamper state’s ability to collect child support payments

A lot of discussion has focused on the federal money the state might lose if the child support issue is not fixed during the next two months. It is serious money, but the real impact to children and families would come from the loss of federal tools the Idaho Child Support Program relies on. Here are some of the tools Idaho would no longer be able to access and a description of what they are used for:

Wage Withholding: The most important tool the state uses to collect child support payments from non-custodial parents who don’t voluntarily make their payments is wage withholding. The increase in collections by wage withholding is due, in part, to improved accuracy, ease of paternity testing, and the new-hire reporting system. In FFY 2014, $105.8 million was collected using this tool, accounting for 61 percent of all the state’s child support collections, as shown in the chart below.

Wage Withholding TS

New-hire Reporting-Electronic Data Matching: The department electronically matches parents responsible for paying child support with those taking new jobs by cross-referencing information from the Idaho Department of Labor. This makes it possible to quickly locate and withhold wages from parents who begin new jobs. DHW matched an average of 1,869 people per month in FFY 2014 with this tool.

Federal Tax Offset: Non-custodial parents who are behind in their child support payments are subject to state and/or federal tax offsets. In FFY 2014, households who receive child support enforcement services received $12.3 million in tax offset dollars for Idaho children.

Direct Collections: When appropriate, the state can collect past-due child support payments directly from several sources, including Social Security, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and bank accounts through Financial Institutions Data Matching.

Passport: Passport applications are denied when a parent owes more than $2,500 in child or spousal support. Once the denial is in place, the entire amount due must be paid before the denial is lifted and the passport can be issued. If a parent already has a passport, there is no way to revoke it. If an existing passport is lost, stolen, or needs to be renewed, the passport is denied until the past-due amount is paid. In FFY 2014, $50,000 was collected using this tool and more than $116,000 was collected in FFY 2013.

Federal Parent Locator Service: Child Support Services uses a powerful automated information system working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help locate parents. When a parent’s address is missing or incorrect, the information system automatically accesses information from the Federal Parent Locator Service to find those missing individuals. There are currently more than 15,422 cases in the Child Support program using this system.

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