FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 13, 2006
Schumer: 24,000 Rochester Single-Parent Families At Risk Because Of Closed-Door Legislative Maneuver That Cuts Child Support Collection For Those That Desperately Need It
Over Next Five Years New York State Would Lose $167 Million In Federal Funds, Preventing Collection of Nearly $334 Million In Payments To New York Families
With 23,895 Monroe County families depending on child support payments, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called for restored funding for the Child Support Enforcement Program. Congress’ Budget Reconciliation Bill cut this critical program by $1.5 billion, which would impact 17.3 million children nationwide and could translate into a $334 million drop in New York child support.
“These cuts hurt us where we feel it the most: with our families,” Schumer said. “This is one of the most efficient and effective programs we have. For every $1 spent, families collect $4.38 in child support. We know that fathers who pay child support are more involved with their kids, and kids who get child support do better in school. This program cracks-down on deadbeat dads, but also saves families by lifting them out of poverty.”
The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Program, established in 1975 as part of the Social Security Act, is a federal/state/local partnership to collect child support for single-parent families that have been unable to obtain financial resources from the non-custodial parent. The program helps to ensure that children have the financial support of both their parents, fosters responsible parental behavior towards children, emphasizes that children need to have both parents involved in their lives, and reduces reliance on welfare. The child support program collected $4.38 for every public dollar spent in 2004. In 2005, 300,000 families nationwide were able to move off public assistance because of their child support collections.
On February 8th, the Budget Reconciliation Bill became law after narrowly passing in the House by two votes and in the Senate by a single vote that was cast by Vice President Cheney. The new law includes a 20% cut to the federal funds devoted to child support, which will act as a double-edged sword for families that rely on child support. State Child Support Enforcement Programs will have less financial resources and therefore not be able to collect as much child support, and without the help of child support, more families will be forced to enroll in public assistance programs that will further strap state budgets.
State child support programs locate non-custodial parents, establish paternity, establish and enforce support orders, modify orders when appropriate, and collect and distribute child support payments. The process of locating a non-custodial parent and establishing and enforcing child support orders is a time-consuming, labor intensive process which includes data entry and verification, obtaining court orders, collaborating with other states, seizing bank accounts and income tax refunds, and referring low-income parents to job centers. Without sufficient funding for these programs, the many moving parts involved in collecting child support will stop working. In New York State alone, these cuts will translate into a $334 million drop in New York child support collections.
These cuts will seriously undermine the dramatic progress that New York State has made in its Child Support Enforcement program. In the last twelve years, New York State improved its child support collection rate from 12% to 50%. With the federal funding cuts, NYS’ collection rates will likely drop.
The Child Support Enforcement Program is recognized for both its performance and cost-effectiveness. In fact, the federal Office of Management and Budget rated this program as the highest performing social program in the nation. For every public dollar spent, $4.38 is collected in private dollars. Cutting this program would cripple one of the most effective and efficient programs in the country.
Schumer said today that this program is critical for helping low income families move off of public support. Because the budget cuts will result in diminishing resources for state child support programs, more difficult cases will be pushed to the backburner. Without child support payments to help supplement their income, many of these low-income families will be forced onto public assistance. In 2005, 300,000 families closed their TANF cases due to their receipt of child support collection. Without child support for these families, many will re-enroll in TANF and other public assistance programs
Schumer today discussed several steps to reverse the impact of the cuts. First, he has sent a bipartisan letter to the President urging him to fund this in the future. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Herb Kohl (D-WI) joined Schumer in this letter. Second, Schumer announced he would work with Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt to figure out what states can do to fill in the funding shortfall. Can states like New York receive money from a contingency fund? Or can they give NY the authority to fill the gap from other federal moneys they receive from other HHS-funded programs? If these measures fail, introduce legislation through the Senate Finance Committee to make sure funding is restored.
Schumer was joined by Tammie Sliker, of Rochester, who after enrolling in the program, was able to track down her child’s missing dad and collect over $27,000 in back child support payments.