When any type of Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) assistance that is granted by the government, child support rights must be forfeited to the state by the custodial parent. This is supposedly so that the noncustodial parent can repay the TANF benefit awarded to the family. A question arises about the possible overpayment received by the state if TANF recipients are required to work in order to earn the benefit. According to Gene Falk, a specialist in Social Policy (2013), states must meet work participation standard or risk a reduction in their block grants. Since states receive a portion of a $16.5 billion block grant, it is of great importance that mandates are met and or exceeded. Working for cash benefits may sound a bit easier than what is actually required.
Currently a parent is required to work a minimum of 30 hours per week or 20 hours per week for parents with children under six years or under, (Administration for Children and Families, 2012). Parents must engage in specific core activities in order for credit towards the 30 hours. A parent must work at least an average of 20 of the 30 hours per week. According to the Office of Planning, Research, & Evaluation (2012), these hours are only counted if the following core activities are included:
· Unsubsidized employment
· Subsidized private-sector employment
· Subsidized public-sector employment
· Work experience if sufficient private-sector employment is not available
· On-the-job training
· Job-Search and job readiness assistance
· Community service program
· Vocational education training
· Child care services for individuals participating in a community service program
As if those mandates were not enough, more rules are applied for needy parents enrolled in the TANF program. Beyond 20 hours per week in core activities, participation in noncore activities may be counted. The Office of Planning, Research, & Evaluation (2012) lists these activities as:
· Job-skills training directly related to employment
· Education directly related to employment, in the case of a recipient who has not received a high school diploma or a certificate of high school equivalency
· Satisfactory attendance at high school or in a course of study leading to a certificate of general equivalence, if a recipient has not completed high school or received such a certificate
Although the fine print all but excludes the fact that grants are not loans, and therefore do not require repayment, cash benefits seem to be repaid at least on two occasions. The first repayment occurs when parents are mandated to work in order to collect cash benefits from the TANF program. Activities countable toward a family being counted as “engaged in work” are focused employment or working off the cash benefit, (Falk, 2013). Working off a debt that should not be considered a debt casts ethical doubt on a system supposedly designed to help the needy.
When considering the amounts of money TANF recipients receive in a monthly benefit, one could perceive that receiving nothing at all might be a better scenario.
For existence, in states like Alabama and Arkansas, monthly TANF benefits average $210 for a single parent family of three. This means that these parents are earning approximately $1.75 for participating in work requirement programs. This below minimum wage amount will never lift a family out of poverty, but more importantly, the family is “working off” the TANF “loan” which is really a grant.
The second form of repayment for the grant is paid in the form of child support. The states, upon receiving rights to child support payment from TANF participants, pursue noncustodial parents with vigor in order to recoup the burden of providing for the family. Any child support payments collected are used to reimburse the state and federal government for TANF benefits provided to the family (Welfare Peer Technical Assistance Network). That is a lot of work and money for the repayment for such a low amount of grant benefits.
Because of child support laws, that debt owed to the state often balloons to unmanageable levels thus leaving a parent always in fear of retribution and lifetime debt. The amount of money that the states demand in return for so little is not beneficial to families that the system is supposed to assist and protect. As long as people are exploited and overcharged for grant money that is not supposed to be repaid, astronomical problems will exist. Poverty will continue to plague American families as long as the poor are being charged double and triple for small amounts of money while corporations fail to repay any of the billions that they receive from the government. This cycle needs to end or we will continue to delve deeper into a world of the haves and the have not’s.
Benefits.Gov Compass (2012, October). Benefits.gov eNewsletter. Retrieved March 1, 2013, from http://www.benefits.gov/news/newsletter/october-2012
Falk, G. (2013, April 2). Congressional research service. Retrieved March 5, 2014, from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32748.pdf
Hahn, D. K., & Zwdlewski, S. (2012, March 5). TANF work requirements and state strategies to fulfill them. Retrieved March 5, 2014, from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/work_requirements_0.pdf
Kakuska, C. J., & Hercik, J. M. (n.d.). Collaboration between tanf and child support enforcement: Partnering to support families. Retrieved March 5, 2014, from https://peerta.acf.hhs.gov/pdf/tanf_collab.pdf
Laasby, G. (2014, March 5). Target data breach: Wisconsin child support payments stolen - TwinCities.com. Retrieved March 5, 2014, from http://www.twincities.com/business/ci_25281444/target-data-breach-wisconsin-child-support-payments-stolen
Roberts, P. (2005, November). Center for law and social policy. Retrieved March 1, 2014, from http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publication-1/0252.pdf
Wolf, J. (n.d.). What is TANF - Temporary Assistance For Needy Families. Retrieved March 1, 2014, from http://singleparents.about.com/od/financialhelp/p/TANF.htm
March 3, 2014
There is a massive problem in the U.S. when we are jailing our citizens for owing any type of debt. The law is written clearly that under federal law, debtors’ prisons are illegal. According to Marie Diamond (2011) federal imprisonment for unpaid debts has been illegal in the U.S. since 1833. This does not, unfortunately, extend to state legislation. The states use a slippery slope in order to avoid violating the law while still ignoring the federal law against jailing poor people because who cannot afford to pay their debt. Many states and local courts skirt around the law by assessing fees, fines and costs as part of a civil fine or “criminal justice debt”, (Stephanie Lane). This essentially means that despite your financial situation, jail may be a punishment for any debt owed to the government.
This can cause quite a feeling of bias between the rich and the poor (as if more are needed) along with a feeling of designed inequality. By enforcing actions such as jailing people for debt, the system is conveying to people who commit crimes that if they have enough money to pay the fine, no other punishments will be imposed. In contrast, the same actions are telling the less fortunate, punishments will be more severe if one has no money. This thin line between criminally negligent and too poor to pay is unequivocally pertinent in child support guidelines and laws. Child support is hardly a problem until one cannot afford to pay the assigned amount to the state.
Sentencing in states as Indiana and Illinois carry prison sentences of eight years while Montana tacks on two more years for child support criminal punishment. Indiana fines parents $10,000 along with the jail sentence and Illinois charges a whopping $25,000. But the winner for the award of the most outrageous prison sentence goes to the state of Idaho. Idaho sentences its parents to 14 years but not exclusively for failing to pay court ordered child support. The sentence is for desertion and nonsupport of children OR wife. This law means that a man can be imprisoned for simply leaving a matrimonial household with or without children.
States have crossed a very narrow line when punishing citizens for debt and especially child support debt. Everyone knows that collecting debt from an incarcerated parent is nearly impossible. However, since most states refuse to disallow debt accumulated during prison the amount owed steadily increases during the duration of the incarceration. This is to ensure that poor people are kept in debt to the government for as long as possible. These rules do not apply to those who can afford hefty child support payments, fees, interest, and court costs.
Diamond, M. (2011, December 13). The Return Of Debtor's Prisons: Thousands Of Americans Jailed For Not Paying Their Bills | ThinkProgress. Retrieved February 26, 2013, from http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2011/12/13/388303/the-return-of-debtors-prisons-thousands-of-americans-jailed-for-not-paying-their-bills
Lane, S. (n.d.). The New Bill Collector Tactic: Jail Time | Nolo.com. Retrieved February 26, 2014, from http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/the-new-bill-collector-tactic-jail-time.html
National Conference of State Legislator (2014, January). Criminal Nonsupport and Child Support. Retrieved February 26, 2014, from http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/criminal-nonsupport-and-child-support.aspx
March 12, 2014
In states like Ohio, a radar has been placed on citizens that have failed to repay debt owed to the taxpayers of the Buckeye State. In cases where restitution is court ordered, there seems to be a lack of urgency that is present when Ohio pursues parents that become delinquent on child support payments. Considering that $14 million is owed by debtors who live in Central Ohio who were involved in improper use of public money in the area, (Paul Aker, 2014). It is public knowledge that a court order for arrest, income tax seizures, property liens, and money other enforcements may be used in pursuit of debt less than $14 million.
It is the law in Ohio that indictment considerations for child support require several factors be met which includes that the payer has missed at least 26 out of 104 weeks of payments. The payer also must exceed $5,000 in the amount of debt owed. Based on these two rules alone, there should be no reason that fathers should have their photo on most wanted posters for owing $3,765.18 or $3,773.94 in Butler and Franklin Counties respectively. These counties are clearly rewriting and changing laws created by their own legislation.
It is not clear why it is nearly impossible to have arrears erased except for the need for states to keep citizens in life long debt when it comes to child support debt. According to Cornell University Law School, if the court determines that the defendant does not have the ability to pay interest, the court may:
a. waive the requirement for interest
b. limit the total of interest payable to a specific amount
c. limit the length to the period during which interest accrues
It is clearly much more involved and almost never granted when pursuing an excused arrears judgment. There has always been the argument of bias between men and women related to child support. But Ohio is proving a bias relating to criminally charged public officials owing restitution and parents that may be down on their luck.
Aker, P. (2014, February 24). 10 Investigates: State Has Not Garnished Wages for People Who Owe Taxpayers | WBNS-10TV Columbus, Ohio. Retrieved February 2, 2014, from http://www.10tv.com/content/stories/2014/02/24/owing-ohio-10-investigates-11pm.html
Butler County Child Support Enforcement Agency (2013, August). Wanted. Retrieved February 24, 2014, from HYPERLINK "http://www.butlercountycsea.org/content/documents/Wanted%20Poster%20(revised%20proof)_2.pdf" http://www.butlercountycsea.org/content/documents/Wanted%20Poster%20(revised%20proof)_2.pdf
Franklin County Sheriff's Office (n.d.). Deadbeat Parents. Retrieved February 24, 2014, from http://sheriff.franklincountyohio.gov/search/deadbeat-parents.cfm
March 1, 2014
When the United States government passed reform to the child support and the Aid for Dependent Children (AFDC) systems, the objective was supposedly to end welfare as we knew it in the nation. When this dramatic change was implemented in the AFDC program, block grants were awarded to the states in order to provide for needy families. Unfortunately, this change was detrimental to an already disadvantaged community. According to Schott, Paretti, and Finch (2012), the government gives states a fixed block grant totaling $16.5 billion each year.
With the time limits and other restrictions preventing low-income families from receiving cash and other benefits, the remaining money can be used as the states' discretion. In fact, with the freed up money, states used some funds to substitute for (or "supplant") existing state spending (Schott, et.al., 2012). This left many families in worse financial situations then they could have possible imagined when drafting the reforms. According to Schott, et. al. (2012), the money, which initially was used to assist disadvantaged families, was suddenly used for plugging holes in state budgets.
With no direct money being paid to supplement these low-income families, child support reform was the alternative. Unfortunately, there was no substantial long-term plan for transitioning those parents, mostly living in poverty, from depending on one income to depending on another. The latter of the incomes was as uncertain as the success of child support and welfare reformations. A significant safety net would have been helpful when lifting families out of poverty.
The federal government did not seem to strongly consider the difficulty of being denied a steady income, albeit a low amount, while seeking money from another parent who was probably living in poverty themselves. The objective, along with getting millions of people employed was to wean people off of public assistance while pursuing money from another target. The label of "deadbeat" dad was introduced and there dawned a new villain to blame on poverty in America. There was never a second thought that the government did not care about lifting people out of poverty by providing jobs. The government, arguably, was only worried about ending welfare as a crutch for the poor.
According to The Lewin Group (2003), increases in work activity might increase a woman's sense of independence and reduce her perceived need for child support. Why, then, over a decade later is child support one of the biggest issues affecting the modern day nontraditional families. The need for omen to reduce the need for child support would mean that they may not miss forfeited payments that were assigned to the states in return for receiving dwindling and time restricted cash welfare benefits. When collecting the child support payments, the custodial parents did not receive a penny of that money.
In the beginning, it was because of receiving TANF benefits, and then it was because of a supposed bill owed to the state for those benefits, and finally it is because of arrears. Anyway that it is justified, it is money being collected on behalf of children and families but is clearly being retained by the states. Besides money that is clearly being retained by the state, billions are collected and undistributed to these some families. In fact, in 2012 alone, the Office of Child Support Enforcement reported that a total of $640,772,707 which include pending and unresolved distributed collections. That is even more money that the government has claimed without any explanation to the public that it is supposed to serve.
Finally, all states receive incentives and bonuses for meeting and or exceeding five measurements approved by the federal government. As long as the mandated requirements are satisfied, money will be paid to the states like clockwork. Eight states received Section 1115 Grants in addition to incentive payments in 2012. The payments ranged from $194,416 to $200,000. This money is not directly paid to the families but is, instead, used to “manage evaluations”. These evaluations are used to inform state child support agencies conducting national child support noncustodial parent employment demonstrations about the effectiveness of the programs (Department of Health and Human Services, 2012).
These grants have not improved the conditions of the families enough to gain national recognition for assisting families on a quest to become self-sufficient. As the information details, the federal government pays out at least three times for the benefit of state child support agencies. Yet, child poverty has increased since the reform and implementation of the two systems. The child poverty rate in 2000 was 17% and was 23% in 2012 (KidsCount, 2012). I can think of over 16.m children that could make better use of that money if it were to reach the families. Instead, the local, state and federal governments continue to triple dip into the pockets of taxpaying citizens and families.
Kids Cound data center (2013). Children in poverty | KIDS COUNT Data Center.
Retrieved February 11, 2013, from http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/43-children-in-poverty?loc=1&loct=1#detailed/1/any/false/868,11/any/321,322
The Lewin Group (2003, April 11). Child Support and TANF Interaction: Literature Review. Retrieved February 2, 2013, from http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/cs-tanf-int03/report.htm
Office of Child Support Enforcement (2012, October 22). FY 2012 OCSE Grant Awards | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families. Retrieved February 11, 2013, from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/fy-2012-ocse-grant-awards
Schott, L., Pavetti, L., & Finch, I. (2012, August 7). How States Have Spent Federal and State Funds Under the TANF Block Grant — Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved February 11, 2014, from http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3808
A parent and an author who has survived adverse situations and lived to write about it..