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Child support loses some federal aid

Published (1/14/2011)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Counties take on the lion’s share of establishing and enforcing child support orders and collecting the $1.6 billion in owed money. As of the end of September, they have been operating without $24 million in federal funds.

In a Jan. 10 overview of child support programs to the House Civil Law Committee, Wayland Campbell, director of the Department of Human Services Child Support Enforcement Division, said the programs receive 66 percent of their funding from the federal government. The $24 million came from incentives funneled annually to help counties offset costs and was above the regular funding.

Administered by the state, it’s the counties that deliver the services. “They’re the ones that are suffering,” Campbell said. “We haven’t been able to make up that difference for the counties because we are suffering a severe budget issue ourselves.”

Child support laws and regulations fall under the jurisdiction of the committee. Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) asked if there are efforts to mitigate that financial loss by redesigning the program, or if it’s just another unfunded mandate for counties.

“We are working with a committee of interested parties to see if we can reach agreement on the state providing more governance of the program, but allow it to operate under the current state-county relationship,” Campbell said.

Drazkowski questioned the federal caveat making the publicly funded child support allocation and collection services available to all income brackets. “If indeed a state did institute some eligibility guidelines … would this help us reduce the cost of the program?”

Campbell said he has a “strong disagreement” with members who think the state can institute guidelines. “I think this is directly prohibited by federal law.”

No action was taken.

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