Emergency child support funds made available (Illinois - computer problems)

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Emergency child support funds made available


Faced with complaints from lawmakers and desperate parents, Gov. George Ryan on Tuesday made $500,000 in emergency funds available to about 3,000 Illinois families waiting for child-support checks delayed by the state's new processing system.

"We're concerned about the parents and children caught up in this backlog," the Republican governor said at a Statehouse news conference. "We've heard too many stories about parents who are unable to buy medicines or food and parents who have not been able to pay their rent, mortgage or child care on time."

Ryan's action came after a call for such a move from state Rep. Joseph Lyons, D-Chicago, chairman of a House committee on child-support enforcement.

But the governor's words fell short of Senate Democratic Leader Emil Jones' request last week that Ryan temporarily scrap Illinois' new federally mandated system and revert to the previous system in which circuit court clerks in all 102 counties processed support payments.

Various problems have caused a backlog of about 3,000 payments in Illinois since Oct. 1. That was the federal deadline for each state to have a single processing center as part of welfare-reform legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996.

The single centers are designed to help crack down on deadbeat parents and make it easier for employers to route support payments from employees' paychecks to recipients.

The new center in Wheaton is part of the Du Page County governmental complex and already has processed 55,000 payment checks, but some families have been waiting for checks almost three weeks.

Ryan said parents can call a nation wide toll-free number - (877) 225-7077 - that will be available indefinitely from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Callers will need to supply their name, address and the docket number of the court case that established child support.

Checks representing the amount of overdue money then will be mailed from the Wheaton center to recipients within 48 hours of the call. The money will come from the state Department of Public Aid's $6.8 million contract with the Du Page processing center. The state will pay itself back as late checks are processed, officials said.

Kim Parson, a divorced mother of one, said the emergency money is good news but a "Band-Aid solution." The 34-year-old Canton resident said it doesn't take care of future potential problems or erase the emotional and financial hardship already suffered by parents and children.

Parson still hasn't received three $250 child-support checks, she said Tuesday night, and is late in paying her utility bill and had to go in debt to pay other bills.

"I've been in tears almost every single day," she said.

Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, said he would like to see the state ask the federal government for a delay in moving forward with a new central processing center, but he commended Ryan for the short-term step.

"At least he has realized that this computer problem has a human face," said Black, who said he received a call earlier Tuesday from a single mother waiting for late support payments who threatened suicide.

"People are at the end of their patience," he said.

Ryan and Ann Patla, director of the Illinois Department of Public Aid, said at the news conference that they would prefer Illinois could have retained the previous system, which they said was working well. But Ryan said the state must follow federal law or face monetary sanctions.

Patla said Illinois has no plans to ask for more time and added that the federal government doesn't allow such a delay.

But Michael Kharfen, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C., said several states have requested exemptions from deadlines to either give them more time to start up processing centers or set up their systems differently. Among them are Indiana, Nevada, Michigan, Texas and Wyoming.

Nevada and Michigan received federal approval for exemptions so they could start up their centers on Oct. 1, 2000, and Oct. 1, 2001, respectively, Kharfen said. He said there is no deadline for requesting an exemption.

Ryan, Patla and their aides said the delays in Illinois aren't the fault of state officials. Instead, they said employers have sent payments to Wheaton with incomplete information, and some circuit clerks statewide have supplied insufficient data to Wheaton or not cooperated at all.

But one central Illinois circuit clerk contends that Public Aid hasn't admitted to its own mistakes.

"Things have not been done the way they should," said Carla Bender, circuit clerk in Logan County. "I can't tell you it's one entity's fault."

States across the country have had problems complying with the federal mandate, according to Teresa Myers, a senior policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver.

It's not surprising that a large state such as Illinois has seen child-support checks delayed because of glitches, she said. Delays have taken place in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Tennessee, Myers and Kharfen said.

California, Texas, Nebraska and Ohio still don't have central processing centers, and Myers said California already has started paying federal sanctions - in the form of less federal aid - for missing a deadline to set up a statewide computer system for child-support collections.

Dean Olsen can be reached at 782-6883 or olsen@sj-r.com.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), October 21, 1999


Damned Deadbeat Governments!

-- Wild Celt (garbagein@garbageout.com), October 21, 1999.

Hey pollies! give Illinois a call! especially those with a smart mouth and vast mainframe experience (no Hoff, Excel and Foxpro don't count). Two to three days max, right? Multiply this 10,000-fold next year. You people are morons.

-- (pollys@reidiots.com), October 21, 1999.

...don't worry Al Gore will fix this...



10/20/99- Updated 02:43 PM ET

Gore outlines crackdown on deadbeat dads

WASHINGTON (AP) - Vice President Al Gore Wednesday proposed a crackdown on fathers who refuse to pay child support and government help for those who can't afford to.

''There are too many absent fathers in our society,'' Gore said at the Congress Heights United Methodist Church. ''There are too many mothers who are struggling because of fathers who will not step up to their responsibilities.''

Gore laid out his ''responsible fatherhood'' package 24 hours before Bill Bradley, his sole rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, is due to unveil his plan to eradicate child poverty.

Aides said the vice president's plan also was designed to attack child poverty by remedying one of its biggest causes: financial and emotional abandonment by fathers.

Gore proposed giving federal child-support funds only to states that require all non-custodial parents - mainly fathers - who owe child support to get a job and pay up, or go to jail.

If elected president, Gore said he also would require fathers to sign ''personal responsibility contracts,'' in which they would acknowledge paternity and pledge to work to pay child support, as a condition of getting aid from the Welfare to Work program.

Under Gore's plan, the government would provide credit card companies with data on ''deadbeat dads'' who have not paid child support and urge lenders to deny them credit cards.

For the lesser-spoken-of group of ''dead broke'' fathers who don't pay because they can't afford to, Gore would broaden regulations allowing states to use federal welfare money to help them find and keep jobs.

The 1996 welfare reform law moved millions of families off welfare, Gore said. ''I want to lead the next generation of welfare reform that will ask fathers to step up to their responsibility,'' Gore said.

Joe Jones is president of Center for Fathers, Families and Workforce Development, a Baltimore program of ''tough love, in-your-face job training and readiness'' that Gore said he would like to see replicated.

''We're looking at ways to make the distinction between deadbeat and dead broke. If you're a low-income parent with little education and no job, we've got to take that into account as we put together these child support orders,'' said Jones, who joined Gore Wednesday.

Gore also offered measures to help ensure children grow up in two-parent homes, including new grants to community and religious groups to ''help couples prepare for and strengthen their marriage, become better parents and reduce domestic violence.''

The vice president is making a habit of pre-empting Bradley's speeches. Days before the former New Jersey senator unveiled an ambitious and expensive plan last month to provide near-universal health insurance, Gore rushed together a more limited health plan.

''This certainly suggests that the vice president agrees with our agenda,'' Bradley spokesman Eric Hauser said. ''But in the end the depth and significance of our proposals to solve big problems is far greater than his.''

Gore spokesman Chris Lehane fired back with a reference to Bradley's vote in the Senate in favor of President Reagan's 1981 spending cuts. ''Al Gore's interest and commitment to strengthening families dates back long before he became interested in running for president, back to 1981 when he stayed and fought against the Reagan budget cuts that devastated programs for working families and the poor,'' he said.

Meanwhile, a poll released Tuesday showed Gore and Bradley in a close race in Iowa, which holds the first presidential nominating contest in January.

Gore was favored by 43% of the voters questioned, to Bradley's 40 %, with 17% undecided. The survey of 617 people who said they regularly vote in state elections was commissioned by KCCI, a Des Moines, Iowa, television station. It claimed a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Bradley's campaign has gained ground in polls across the country, including in Iowa. A survey last month had him within 12 points of the vice president in the state, where Gore generally had been given an edge because of his backing from the party establishment.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), October 21, 1999.

...a federal mandate created this problem...



Station Home Page & More Local Information

System Snafu Marc Magliari A new federal law required all states to set up central points for employers to send withheld child support payments.

Currently in Quincy, IL 68:


Updated 14:00 ET October 21, 1999

Provided by AccuWeather

Nearly three weeks into the process.. the system still is *not* working right in Illinois. Governor Ryans press secretary confirms the operators answering the toll free number were not given instructions on what to tell callers until nearly a full-day *after* Ryans announcement of a half-million-dollars available in emergency payments to those waiting for checks. Now, the Governors press secretary says the hot-line will stay open nights until eight p.m. through Friday to give additional help. And, if someone gets both the regular check and the emergency payment Governor Ryans office says go ahead cash both checks and the paperwork should eventually catch-up. Area clerks are also willing to help out smooth over the change. In Macomb, the circuit clerk is asking employers to send the withheld money through her office until the end of the year so the state can catch up. In Quincy, the Adams County circuit clerk says he will process any of the payments through the end of the year, too.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), October 21, 1999.

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