Robert R. Bliss
Child support collection of $554 million increases $33 million or 6 percent over FY07
The federal government's economic stimulus program has proven to be a shot in the arm for child support collections in Massachusetts and helped push collections past the FY08 goal of $550 million.
Since the IRS began mailing checks in the spring, the state Department of Revenue's Child Support Enforcement Division has collected $10.8 million from intercepted federal stimulus checks mailed to more than 19,000 non-custodial parents who were delinquent in paying child support.
Much of that intercept collection was received before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, and helped to boost child support collections in Massachusetts to a record $554.3 million for FY08. But even without the stimulus intercept program, child support collections would have set a record.
The $554.3 million in child support collections for FY08 was 6 percent higher than the previous year's total of $521,074,165 and exceeded the collection goal of $550 million. Of the $554.3 million, $222.8 million went to families who formerly received public assistance; $284.5 million went to families who never received public assistance; and $47.1million went to families on public assistance.
"The increase in child support collections for FY08 put an additional $33 million into the pocketbooks and wallets of custodial parents who need that money to raise their families -- $33 million they did not have last year," said Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray.
"Exceeding the goal of $550 million in child support collections overall is very good news for these children whose needs are no less than those of every other child in the Commonwealth," he said.
A new program, the intercept of funds owed by delinquent noncustodial parents from the Treasurer's abandoned property list, generated $1.3 million in collections. The license suspension program for those owing past due child support generated $35.8 million in collections, an increase of 6 percent from the previous fiscal year. This was based on the issuance 13,977 notices of suspension and then, in the absence of payment of past due child support, actual suspension of 8,947 licenses. Since the license suspension program began in 2002, $142 million has been collected.
The federal tax refund intercept program was boosted by both the issuance of stimulus checks to taxpayers and by a change in federal law which allowed states for the first time to intercept tax refunds of non-custodial parents who owed back child support for children 18 and older who had never received public assistance.
Deputy DOR Commissioner Marilyn Ray Smith, who directs the Child Support Enforcement Division, thanked employees at all levels of the division for their hard work in achieving the record-setting performance.
"It's our job to make sure that children get the support they need and deserve. We will continue to fine tune our processes to make sure that the many families who need child support have their cases move as quickly as possible," she said.
"Successful enforcement work is built on current support compliance," she said, pointing out that the number of paying support cases increased by 3 percent, from 76,591 to 79,065.
Almost 25,000 paternities were established as the result of voluntary acknowledgements and court action. That is 11 times more than in 1990. The establishment of paternity is critical to the collection of child support as it establishes the father's legal responsibility, Smith said.
DOR Commissioner Navjeet K. Bal pointed out that for a state appropriation of $51.7 million in FY08, Child Support Enforcement returned $80.6 million to the Commonwealth through federal reimbursement of program costs, direct cost recovery of public assistance benefits and federal incentive payments, for a net revenue benefit of $28.9 million.
In addition, working with MassHealth to enroll children who receive state-funded Medicaid in private health insurance resulted in Medicaid cost savings of $77.1 million in FY08 and a total of $403.4 million since FY01.
Noting that families who receive regular child support are three times less likely to return to welfare than families who do not receive child support, Bal said, "A strong child support enforcement program is important to children and to the entire Commonwealth."