Child-support checks delayed as dates modernize servicegreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Child-support checks delayed as states modernize service
By CHRISTOPHER WILLS
Associated Press Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Sherry Graham works two jobs at restaurants. She shops for bargains on clothes for her two sons at Wal-Mart or Goodwill. Every dollar counts.
Now Ms. Graham's budget is being stretched even tighter -- thanks to government efforts to make her life easier.
Her last two twice-monthly child-support checks have not been delivered by the new state office that is supposed to handle checks more efficiently -- a problem faced by tens of thousands of families around the country.
The federal government has required states to install new computer systems and create central offices for processing checks, rather than continuing to rely on county offices. The goal is to create a nationwide network that can share information and track down deadbeats more easily.
But the changes have created problems in about 10 states as computer programs malfunction or clerks fail to provide the proper information to deliver checks.
In fact, only two of the eight largest states -- New York and Pennsylvania -- have made the changes with relatively few problems. The rest either have encountered glitches that delayed thousands of checks or have not yet installed the new systems.
Among the problems:
-- Thousands of Nevada checks were delayed by a new computer system whose $22.6 million price has ballooned to more than $100 million.
-- North Carolina has provided nearly $5 million in emergency payments to families who could not wait any longer. Illinois has done the same on a smaller scale, and Tennessee is considering a similar arrangement.
-- Checks were delayed so long in Hawaii that a class-action lawsuit has been filed by parents who want the interest the state collected while the checks were sitting undelivered.
-- Florida is experiencing delays, even though some of its biggest counties, including the Miami area, are not even included yet in the centralized system.
"This is a huge undertaking," said Beth Allman, spokeswoman for the Florida Association of Court Clerks. "The backlog or the delay in checks is a systemic problem that every state is going to experience as we all try to learn a new way of business."
Ms. Graham counts herself and her boys, 15 and 8, as lucky. She is employed, which puts her in a better situation than many other mothers waiting for their child support checks.
"There are going to be some mothers who can't buy bread and milk for their kids, and that's terrible," said the Havana, Ill., resident.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services has said the new systems ultimately will make it easier to find deadbeat parents, simplify the delivery of child support across state lines and free workers from routine tasks so they can serve families.
Department spokesman Michael Kharfen said delays have happened in only a few states.
"It's not really enough states to say there is some kind of pattern," he said Wednesday. "There are the unfortunate circumstances where some glitches or snags will happen."
Under the old system, most states handled child support at the county level. Businesses would deduct child-support payments from workers' salaries and send the money to various counties, which would then deliver the checks. But the counties generally could not share information, and businesses faced the hassle of mailing checks to scores of offices.
So federal law was changed to require states to install statewide computer systems -- originally by Oct. 1, 1995, but the deadline was pushed back repeatedly. The 1996 welfare-reform law required each state to create a central processing office by October 1999. States that refuse to comply can lose millions in federal funds.
National groups that study child support applaud the requirements but not the way they have been implemented. HHS should provide more guidance and require states to have contingency plans for delivering checks without delay, they said.
"It's devastating. Many of these families are one payment away from welfare dependency," said Debbie Kline, a project director for the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support. "If it is not working, do whatever it takes to make it work. If that means shutting it down and going back to the old way until you know it's fixed, then do it."
Some of the largest states have not yet switched, including California, Texas, Michigan and Ohio. Those states and those encountering glitches represent about half the nation's 20 million government-processed child-support cases.
Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All right reserved This material may not be reproduced for publication, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Home
-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inBellfry.com), November 05, 1999
[Illinois] Department spokesman Michael Kharfen said delays have happened in only a few states. "It's not really enough states to say there is some kind of pattern," he said Wednesday. Here's the "few states" this guy is talking about. Almost 10% of the states in the U.S.:
(1) Illinois, (2) South Carolina (3) North Carolina, (4) Nevada & (5) Ohio (6) Florida, (7) Tennessee, (8) Hawaii (9) California [CA previously brought system up, had so many problems, they took it down.]
I've been keeping track of child support payment problems on this thread ... and just added Tennessee and Hawaii to the list.
BTW - Homer thanks for all of the great articles you've been posting, on this and other subjects.
-- Cheryl (Transplant@Oregon.com), November 05, 1999.
you mean almost 20%...
-- Scott Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 05, 1999.
" ... federal law was changed to require states to install statewide computer systems -- originally by Oct. 1, 1995, but the deadline was pushed back repeatedly ... "
those metrics again
gonna raise their monster heads in January and devour civilization
Homer, when you start a thread, change the button to NO eMail responses, please. Your addy is not real so posters get constant failure notices in their eMail.
" ... But the changes have created problems in about 10 states as computer programs malfunction ... rest either have encountered glitches that delayed thousands of checks or have not yet installed the new systems ... Some of the largest states have not yet switched, including California, Texas, Michigan and Ohio " .. [ running it a tad late ] ...
This is going to be one spectacular fireballing train wreck, society mangled and derailed, smoked, toasted, fried, dust & ashes.
-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (email@example.com), November 05, 1999.
Scott - LOL - thanks for the correction. Haven't had my morning coffee yet, and mind is muddled.
Geez ...20% of states having problems with child support checks.
-- Cheryl (Transplant@Oregon.com), November 05, 1999.
Bump in the road pollies??? Not for these folks. That's the problem with y2k, you simply don't know who it will hit. It's too bad nobody warned these mothers of potential problems. This is my guess (no warning or simply pooh-poohed the whole y2k issue) because they would have stocked up a little. People like me are simply tired of being scoffed by the pollies. Therefore I no longer warn others. Granted their funds are tight, but they would have tried if they didn't listen to those pollies. Now they face hardships, not the end of the world, but serious problems that could have been avoided if it weren't for the polly attitude.
Keep the good work up pollies. See if you can create some additional discomfort to others with your "no problem" theories. Maybe some will actually die.
-- Larry (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 05, 1999.
I don't understand this problem. What are they so upset about? Any problems can be fixed in 2 or 3 hours....
Now, sheeple, repeat after me....
Three Day Storm... Three Day Storm... Three Day Storm... Three Day Storm... Three Day Storm... Three Day Storm... Three Day Storm... Three Day Storm... Three Day Storm... Three Day Storm... Three Day Storm... Three Day Storm... Three Day Storm...
There, don't you feel better now?
Now behave, take your meds, and go BACK TO SLEEP.
56 days remain.
-- Dennis (email@example.com), November 05, 1999.
I wasn't aware of any problems in Hawai'i...but I'm not involved with the child support system. However, in general, adding government to any system seems to make the system more inefficient.
So many of the Pollies are saying, "see, nothing happened." But we are having an increasing number of failures as time goes on...
-- Mad Monk (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 05, 1999.