A fugitive people within a nation is tyranny.

Posts tagged ‘misappropriation’

State Corporate Irresponsibility & Disregard Continues in Florida

Everyone in the United States must walk a straight line when it comes to paying federal-mandated child support, but those that handle your money don’t have the same sense of duty or expectation placed on them. Child support has super priority they say. In Florida, the Department of Revenue is not only withholding child support checks from some parents but some parents are getting paid with money that doesn’t belong to them. They simply aren’t towing the line, respecting your money, or that precious ‘super-priority’ child support.

Bonnie Step hadn’t received a child-support payment for months.

But she wasn’t angry at her ex-husband over the $2,300 she was owed. Instead, she blamed the state of Florida, which is collecting $684 from him every month.

The Florida Department of Revenue has heard similar complaints from others since the child-support disbursement unit began revamping its computer system, which keeps track of more than $1 billion in payments and payouts.

Department officials say the complaints represent less than 1 percent of the child-support cases it handles. But that means little to those who aren’t getting their payments even though ex-spouses are holding up their ends of the court-ordered agreements.

Step of Brandon grew so frustrated that she staged a protest outside what she calls a deadbeat department, a local child-support enforcement office.

After she picketed the office, caseworkers told her they had reopened her file. Within a short time, a lump sum was deposited into her account, she said.

“So how many other mothers are out there who are fighting this same fight?” she asked.

Ann Coffin oversees the child-support offices across the state. The Department of Revenue has 2,300 employees in 41 offices that disburse $1.6 billion a year to 1.1 million families in Florida.

Coffin said federal law requires every state to have an automated child-support system, and the department is struggling while updating its computers.

Previously, caseworkers reviewed every case to initiate any action, she said, but the new computer system scans every case every night and can automatically trigger activity. And there lies the glitch, she said, as 93 percent of the disbursements are done electronically.

“It’s unfortunate,” she said, “and I apologize to any of our customers that we don’t process their inquiries timely or accurately. I think right after implementing a brand new, very large operating system, there’s a learning curve for staff.”

She said problems do arise, and small pockets of problems are the result. She said the department processes 99 percent of payments within 24 hours of receipt of the check or transfer of funds.

She urged anyone with disbursement problems to call the department.

“I would like to say we have sufficient resources and sufficient information,” she said, “that if someone calls us today, we’re able to resolve whatever that problem is with the disbursement of that payment, you know, within a few days.

“We want them to have that money,” she said. “That helps them pay the rent. That helps them buy food and it helps them buy clothes.”

But Stacy Spivey says her problems with the Department of Revenue aren’t new.

Spivey, of Plant City, said her issues date back to 2007. The situation came to a head in September when her ex-husband’s bank accounts were frozen and she was told it would be 60 to 90 days before she would get a child-support check.

Her ex-husband sent her his banking statement. It showed two December payments had been made to the state, totaling more than $1,460.

She got a $2.17 check from but the department, but no more.

Eventually, the check came, but not until recently, when news reports surfaced about her problems with the department.

“The Department of Revenue,” she said, “I honestly don’t know what they’re there for.” She said it should be an advocate of child support recipients. “But, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. It’s a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.”

The Criminal Welfare State

“Close to half the states pass along none of collected child support to families on welfare, while most others pay only $50 a month to a custodial parent, usually the mother, even though the father may be paying hundreds of dollars each month.”


New York Times 12/01/07

Mothers Scrimp as States Take Child Support

MILWAUKEE — The collection of child support from absent fathers is failing to help many of the poorest families, in part because the government uses fathers’ payments largely to recoup welfare costs rather than passing on the money to mothers and children.

Close to half the states pass along none of collected child support to families on welfare, while most others pay only $50 a month to a custodial parent, usually the mother, even though the father may be paying hundreds of dollars each month.

Critics say using child support to repay welfare costs harms children instead of helping them, contradicting the national goal of strengthening families, and is a flaw in the generally lauded national campaign to increase collections.

Karla Hart, a struggling mother of four here, held out her monthly statement from the county child-support office.

Paid by the father: $229.40.

Amount deducted to repay federal costs of welfare: $132.18.

Her share: $97.22. “That extra money was a bill I could pay,” said Ms. Hart, 56, who has lupus and other serious ailments but against her doctor’s advice has started working at a day care center, in a failing effort to achieve solvency.

Reflecting a growing, bipartisan sense that diverting child support money to government coffers is counterproductive, Congress, in the Deficit Reduction Act passed in early 2006, took a modest step toward change. Beginning in 2009, states will be permitted to pass along up to $100 for one child and $200 for two or more children, with the state and federal governments giving up a share of welfare repayments they have received in the past.

The Bush administration has set a goal of increasing the share of collections distributed to families and reducing the amount retained by the government. But the drive to reduce the budget deficit has gotten in the way. As part of last-minute budget crunching, the Republican-controlled Congress in that same act reduced by 20 percent the child-support enforcement money it gives to the states, starting this fall. Many states say the effort to force them to pay more of the enforcement costs will impede collections and prevent them from passing more money on to needy families.

“There was a real groundswell toward the idea of giving more of the money, or even all of it, to the families,” said Vicki Turetsky, an expert on child support at the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington. But that momentum has been stopped short, she said, by the financing change.

Ms. Hart was luckier than most mothers in her position because for more than eight years, under a federally approved experiment, Wisconsin gave all money collected from noncustodial parents to the families. When the experiment ended last year, she lost most of the check.

“My daughter told me this morning that she needed $9 for something at school, and I was like, ‘But I have to pay the rent,’” Ms. Hart said. “I gave it to her, and now I have to find that money someplace else.”

Barry A. Miller, the chief of the North Carolina child support office, said North Carolina, like about half of all states, passed no support money on to families. “We were seriously considering a change, but it’s doubtful we could do that now,” said Mr. Miller, who is also the president of the National Council of Child Support Directors. In North Carolina and elsewhere, lost federal aid may instead force cuts in personnel and enforcement.

On Nov. 15, 24 governors from both parties sent a letter to Congress asking it to repeal the cuts, arguing that they would hurt one of the government’s most cost-effective programs, which raises more than $4 in child support for every $1 spent on enforcement.

The intensified national effort over the last decade to establish paternity for babies born out of wedlock and to collect more support money, mainly from fathers, is often described as a great success. And indeed, collections have increased significantly, to some $24 billion in 2006 from $12 billion in 1996, helping many families avoid penury.

But for the poorest men and women, the story is mixed. Young fathers with little education or job prospects find themselves in arrears and facing jail time or the loss of their driver’s licenses as a result, making it all the harder to start earning and paying, said David J. Pate Jr., an assistant professor of social work at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

One startling indicator of how pervasively the poor are affected is highlighted by Daniel L. Hatcher, a legal expert on welfare issues at the University of Baltimore School of Law, in a forthcoming law review article. Of the nation’s total uncollected child-support arrears of $105 billion in 2006, Professor Hatcher writes, fully half was owed to the federal and state governments to recover welfare costs, rather than to families.

When Congress set up the current child support system in the 1970s, recovering welfare costs was an explicit goal, with some experts arguing that it was only fair for fathers to repay the government for sustaining their offspring and that giving families the money was a form of “double dipping.” But experience and research have suggested to most experts and state and federal officials from both parties that the policy is counterproductive — driving fathers into the underground economy and leaving families more dependent on aid.

Today, said Ron Haskins, a Republican expert at the Brookings Institution, “I don’t think anyone thinks it’s double dipping, especially because one of the major goals is to get more money to the mother so she can stay off welfare.”

The major obstacle to change, Mr. Haskins said, “has usually been that it cost both the federal government and the states money.”

Studies of the Wisconsin experiment showed that when support payments were fully passed along to mothers, more fathers came forward and paid more of the support they owed, said Maria Cancian, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. As families receive more support money, they are less apt to require public assistance, she and other experts say, making up for any short-term loss of revenues. And fathers are more likely to establish lasting patterns of payment and connection with their children, Ms. Cancian said.

Using child support for revenue collection “is penny wise and pound foolish,” she added.

Tonya Wenk, 24, of Milwaukee is so angry at the reduction in payments for her daughter that she and the father have applied to withdraw from the child support system. Ms. Wenk said the father, Lashun Gray, had always paid his required sum to the state and more in private.

Mr. Gray, 26, a forklift driver at a large store, said of the disappearing money, “It bothers me a lot.”

The federal government refused to extend the waiver that allowed Wisconsin to pay all money to families, but the state, despite a $27 million cut in federal aid, continues to forgive its own share of welfare costs.

That is why Ms. Hart, like others in Wisconsin, is receiving more than she would in other states. But this is small comfort to the ailing mother, who had to move to Milwaukee’s outskirts when the building where she rented an apartment was lost to foreclosure, must share a bed with a daughter and worries that she cannot buy a computer for her children in high school.

“The school says go to a library to use one, but we don’t have any transport to the library,” said Ms. Hart, who cannot even think of owning a car.

Going to work, she said, may have been a wash financially because her federal disability check and food stamps were reduced, as is her energy.

“As soon as I catch up, I’ll slow down, but it just keeps going,” she said. “I’m tired and worn out.”

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