Child support frustrates some lawmakers, parents (computer problem)greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Child-support frustrates some lawmakers, parents
Tuesday, December 7, 1999
By Christopher Wills The Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD As state lawmakers were driving home from their fall session, Melinda Williams was worrying that her truck would be repossessed. And while they relaxed in their comfortable homes, Williams was stretching every dollar to pay the rent on her duplex.
So forgive Williams if she's a little bitter that lawmakers decided not to take serious action on the cause of her financial trouble a new processing center that has delayed thousands upon thousands of child-support checks.
Some lawmakers proposed hiring a management firm to review the problem and suggest changes. Some backed requiring the state to pay interest on the delayed checks or considering a financial penalty for the people running the new processing center.
But in the end, lawmakers settled for legislation that essentially re-states how the checks are already supposed to be handled.
Doing anything more would have yielded thrown-together legislation that might make matters worse, said Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford). But others said the delay has less to do with caution than with political fears and squabbling between the House and Senate.
Whatever the reason, Williams is frustrated.
"I see all these people going through this, and it's not fair," said Williams, a Rantoul resident. "What are the people who aren't getting the checks supposed to do?"
A newly discovered computer problem suggests the problems may go deeper than officials have acknowledged. The Rockford Register Star reported Monday that payment orders sometimes end up in a computer limbo, keeping the checks from ever being mailed. That contradicts the Public Aid Department's assertion that the system works well if it has the information needed to process a check.
Williams says she has not gotten a check since Oct. 4, putting her $1,800 behind.
Her truck is about to be repossessed. Her new husband has taken a second job. She is counting on the Salvation Army to provide Christmas gifts for her three daughters. And every time she calls to ask about her support checks, she gets a different explanation for the delay.
"I just want to scream," Williams said.
The problem began when the new processing office opened Oct. 1, consolidating work that had been done by the 102 circuit clerks around Illinois. The "state disbursement unit" was required by the federal government as a tool for centralizing information and tracking down child-support deadbeats.
The office handles child support for families on welfare and in cases where a court orders payments deducted from a parent's paycheck. It does not affect direct payments from one parent to another.
The state says it cannot track how many checks have been delayed, but it has given out more than $8 million in emergency loans to families in financial trouble.
Lawmakers could not agree on how they should react to the problems.
The House passed legislation requiring the state to pay interest on delayed checks, but the Senate refused to consider the idea. Other suggestions such as a management review or not requiring families to repay all of the emergency money they get were rejected, too.
Some lawmakers suggest political considerations are delaying action.
Democratic leaders may see some advantage to having the problem, which is occurring in a Republican governor's administration, linger into next year. GOP leaders, meanwhile, may not want to draw more attention by passing emergency legislation.
"Clearly, there are individuals who are trying to politically take advantage of the situation, which does not help and I think has caused some additional delays," said Syverson, the Senate Republican leader on the issue.
Public Aid Director Ann Patla says most of the delays have been caused by circuit clerks and businesses not following the new rules. For instance, a business might send in a check with the support payments for 10 families but not list how much goes to each family.
The new computer glitch shows the problem is more complex.
Patla said officials assumed that when businesses eventually provided full information, the computer automatically would use it to send out old checks. But that did not happen for about 8,900 checks, which could represent payments to many times that number of families.
She said officials just last week discovered the old checks had not been delivered automatically. Patla said the Public Aid Department will handle routine checks while personnel at the central office sort through the undelivered checks. She is also setting up regional offices so circuit clerks can visit and help update the checks for delivery.
"We do not have any time whatsoever left to fix this problem," she said. "We're at the end of the rope."
-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), December 07, 1999
Your timing is perfect, thanks for posting this! A friend of mine was just telling me of the problems she is going through as a result of this computer problem. I will forward this to her.
-- Deborah (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 07, 1999.
Child-support checks delayed as dates modernize service
Child Support Payment Problems in: (1) Illinois, (2) California, (3) North Carolina, (4) Nevada & (5) Ohiohttp://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=001g eJ
-- Deborah (email@example.com), December 07, 1999.
...Pa. also having the same problems, it finally hit the newspapers last night. Some women haven't received a check in 3 months the article said. I checked with my ex. (Ohio here), and she said she's been getting hers, a little later than normal though. She said her boss hasn't got one in 2 months.
-- Vern (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 07, 1999.
Previous articles showed at least 9-10 states with problems in this area...and remember, once in, it is virtually impossible to get out of the system...
Isn't big brother wonderful?
-- Mad Monk (email@example.com), December 08, 1999.
Monday, December 6 Pittsburgh - A computer glitch, incorrect information being supplied by employers and mistakes by state staff are being blamed for a delay in the mailing of some 20,000 child support checks. The delays affect less than 1% of the 2.2 million payments processed by the computer system The delays also come as the state takes over the duties of distributing checks from local counties.
-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), December 08, 1999.