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This legislative branch agency works exclusively for Members of Congress, their committees and their staff. This collection includes CRS reports from the mid's through —covering a variety of topics from agriculture to foreign policy to welfare. What responsibilities do I have when using this report? Dates and time periods associated with this report. You Are Here: home unt libraries government documents department this report. The state also must disregard the passed-through payments as income for the purposes of determining TANF eligibility in order for the federal government to waive its share.

States must distribute to former TANF families the following child support collections before the state and the federal government are reimbursed the "family-first" policy :. A noncustodial parent's right to visit with his or her children is commonly referred to as visitation or child access and more recently as voluntary parenting time arrangements. State domestic relations or family laws almost universally treat child support and visitation as completely separate issues.

Historically, the federal government has agreed that visitation and child support should be legally separate issues, and that only child support should be under the purview of the CSE program. Both federal and state policymakers have maintained that denial of visitation rights should not be considered a reason for stopping child support payments.

In order to promote visitation and better relations between custodial and noncustodial parents, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of P. The federal government has also sought to engage noncustodial parents in the lives of their children through what are known as "responsible fatherhood programs. Some responsible fatherhood programs help noncustodial parents strengthen their parenting skills. Other programs try to discourage young men from becoming fathers until they are married and ready for the responsibility.

The Deficit Reduction Act of P. Most recently, for FY, the authority and funding for the responsible fatherhood grants program has been provided through two continuing resolutions. Most responsible fatherhood programs include parenting education; training in responsible decisionmaking, conflict resolution, and coping with stress; mediation services for both parents; problem-solving skills; peer support; and job-training opportunities. The CSE federal regulations are found in 45 C.

The welfare reform law P. A noncustodial parent may be ordered to provide health insurance if available through his or her employer, pay for private health insurance premiums, or reimburse the custodial parent for all or a portion of the costs of health insurance obtained by the custodial parent. Federal law requires every child support order to include a provision for health care coverage.

The CSE program is required to pursue private health care coverage when such coverage is available through a noncustodial parent's employer at a reasonable cost. It authorizes the state CSE agency to enforce medical support against a custodial parent whenever health care coverage is available to the custodial parent at reasonable cost.

Moreover, it stipulates that medical support may include health care coverage including payment of costs of premiums, co-payments, and deductibles and payment of medical expenses for a child. Developed in cooperation with the states, employers, federal agencies, and the judiciary, the FPLS includes the following:. The Balanced Budget Act of P. Within three business days after receipt of new hire information from the employer, the state directory of new hires is required to furnish the information to the national directory of new hires.

The HHS Secretary is required to reduce the amount the state would otherwise have received in federal CSE funding by the penalty amount for the fiscal year in question. When a match occurs, the state directory of new hires is required to report to the state CSE agency the name, address, and Social Security number of the employee, and the employer's name, address, and identification number.

Within two business days, the CSE agency then instructs appropriate employers to withhold child support obligations from the employee's paycheck, unless the employee's income is not subject to income withholding. Section a 5 of the Social Security Act 42 U. The DRA P. Federal law requires states to have procedures that create a rebuttable or, at the option of the state, conclusive presumption of paternity upon genetic testing results indicating a threshold probability that the alleged father is the actual father of the child Section a 5 G of the Social Security Act 42 U.

In addition to TANF families, families required to cooperate with the CSE agency also include those receiving foster care payments or Medicaid coverage, as well those in states that have adopted cooperation requirements for their SNAP programs. See the Family Support Act of P.

The District of Columbia uses a hybrid model that starts as a percentage of income model and is then reduced by a formula based on the custodial parent's income. Information was not available for Puerto Rico. There are three exceptions to the immediate income withholding rule: 1 if one of the parties demonstrates, and the court or administrative process finds that there is good cause not to require immediate withholding, 2 if both parties agree in writing to an alternative arrangement, or 3 at the HHS Secretary's discretion, if a state can demonstrate that the rule will not increase the effectiveness or efficiency of the state's CSE program.

Note: Canada is a federal state, composed of 10 provinces and 3 territories, each with its own government and power to make laws. The United States currently has bilateral, federal-level agreements with 9 Canadian provinces and 3 Canadian territories. The 3 territories are Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon. The United States does not have a bilateral, federal-level agreement with Quebec. For more information on P. As of January , 59 Indian tribes or tribal organizations operated comprehensive tribal CSE programs and 3 Indian tribes or tribal organizations operated start-up tribal CSE programs.

The CSE incentive payment—which is based in part on five performance measures related to establishment of paternity and child support orders, collection of current and past-due child support payments, and cost-effectiveness—was statutorily set by the Child Support Performance and Incentive Act of P. Currently, CSE incentive payments that are received by states and reinvested in the CSE program are no longer eligible for federal reimbursement. This provision took effect on October 1, , or October 1, , at state option. Even before the welfare reform law P. Although programs that seek to help fathers initiate or maintain contact with their children and become emotionally involved in their children's lives are usually referred to as "fatherhood" programs, the programs are generally gender neutral.

Their underlying goal is participation of the noncustodial parent in the lives of his or her children. See the Claims Resolution Act of P. Topic Areas About Donate. Download PDF. Download EPUB. However, they also all have upper and lower thresholds. By the same policy, all performance percentages that are below a certain threshold percentage are translated into zero i. In FY, this meant that Illinois, a state that established paternity for See Table B- 5.

Thus, states separated by more than 40 percentage points received the same performance ranking—thereby not fully rewarding the performance of the more successful state. With regard to the establishment of child support orders, in FY, South Dakota, a state with an order establishment percentage of The performance measure for current child support collections is based on the amount of collections i. In FY, one state Pennsylvania, The other states had scores that were less than the upper threshold and more than the lower threshold.

The lowest percentage attained was Likewise, the upper threshold for the arrearage i. The upper threshold for the cost-effectiveness performance measure is 5. In FY, South Dakota had a cost-effectiveness score of Even though there was a 5. In FY, only one jurisdiction the Virgin Islands, 1.

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There have been several criticisms of the CSE performance thresholds, 46 namely that the upper thresholds are too low. Some observers contend that the numerical percentages of the thresholds were established in law almost 15 years ago and that they no longer represent a measure that challenges states. They argue that although you do not want an upper threshold that is unattainable, you do want one that will encourage states to improve their performance.

Others note that because the thresholds were somewhat arbitrary to begin with, it is important to adjust them over time in order to challenge states to keep improving in the specified areas. In contrast, those who support the current performance standards say that it is unfair to raise the bar just because states are doing a good job. They contend that especially during these times of reduced resources, states are doing more with less and should not be penalized by increasing performance thresholds.

The establishment and implementation of the current CSE incentive payment system was in part a recognition that a single indicator i. The current CSE incentive payment system bases incentives on the state's success in achieving a number of goals, in addition to its ability to provide services in a cost-effective manner. Incentive payments are tied to the rates of paternity establishment, child support order establishment, collection of current child support payments, and collection of arrearages past-due child support payments , as well as the amount of child support collected for each dollar spent i.

Some in the CSE community contend that several other indicators of performance have just as much legitimacy as the five measures that were enacted. In contrast, according to a report on the implementation of the CSE incentive payment system, many states indicated that the five measures were adequate and that adding new ones would be premature. The medical support incentive was to be part of the performance-based child support incentive system. Although a report was submitted in March , it recommended that the use of a medical support performance measure be postponed.

To date, the CSE program has never had an incentive performance measure for medical child support. Although medical support data is collected by the states, that information is not currently used to compute incentive payments 51 or penalties and, according to OCSE, there are no immediate plans to use it in connection with the incentive payment system.

A medical support incentive measure has been put on hold until OCSE provides further guidance. It should also be noted that although incentive payments are additional income for state CSE programs, in that they are required to be reinvested into the CSE program or a related activity , they are no longer matched with federal dollars. Questions remain, however, regarding how the ACA will impact medical child support. Many CSE workers contend that the most difficult child support orders to establish and enforce are interstate cases.

Although states are required to cooperate in interstate child support enforcement, problems arise due to the autonomy of local courts. Family law has traditionally been under the jurisdiction of state and local governments, and citizens fall under the jurisdiction of the courts where they live.

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Many child support advocates argue that a child should not be seriously disadvantaged in obtaining child support just because his or her parents do not live in the same state. Despite several federal enforcement tools intended to facilitate the establishment and enforcement of interstate collections, problems still exist. Others acknowledge the importance of interstate collections but argue that states are not yet in a position to perform satisfactorily on an interstate performance measure.

Unlike other social services programs, the CSE program is intended to transfer private—not public—funds to nonwelfare families enrolled in the program. Thus, the CSE program imposes personal responsibility on noncustodial parents by requiring them to meet their financial obligations to their children, thereby alleviating taxpayers of this responsibility. These child support payments often reduce government spending by providing families with incomes sufficient to make them ineligible for programs such as TANF.

Research has indicated that families go on welfare less often and leave sooner when they receive reliable child support payments. In addition, federal costs for Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program SNAP , and other means-tested programs decrease when both parents support their children. Some state policymakers and advocates want to look at an even broader set of factors when evaluating their state CSE program. They maintain that a legitimate purpose of performance standards in some instances is to set expectations.

Child support in the United States

They contend that, because the CSE program has expanded its mission from welfare cost recovery to include promotion of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility and service delivery, it should account for payment processing performance. Such a measure would try to capture whether or not child support payments were accurately accounted, whether families were paid in a timely manner, and whether both custodial and noncustodial parents were satisfied with the state's CSE dispute resolution system. Several persons who commented on the federal regulations for implementation of the CSE incentive payment and audit penalty provisions said that incentive payments and financial penalties are at odds with each other because they affect different programs i.

The principle that there are levels of state performance that would merit an incentive payment and there are levels that would warrant a penalty was incorporated into the current CSE incentive payment system. But, the law also provides that, before a penalty is imposed, states with lower performance levels may be able to receive some incentive, provided their program improves sufficiently and quickly. Federal law stipulates that with regard to the three "more important" performance measures, states must achieve certain levels of performance in order to avoid being penalized for poor performance.

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The three performance measures are: paternity establishment, child support order establishment, and collection of current child support payments. Although there is an interaction between the incentive payment and financial penalty systems, they affect different programs. Thus, even if a state's incentive payment is larger than any penalty assessed against the state, the state cannot easily reconcile the difference because the state is required to reinvest incentive payments back into the CSE program.

Unlike the other performance measures, the paternity establishment indicator has two separate standards to which it must adhere. If a state does not meet the PEP, it must raise its performance by a specified level of improvement in order to avoid having a financial penalty imposed. The percentage of improvement required varies with a state's performance level.

Thus, states can receive incentive payments if their PEP meets certain requirements. The incentive payment provision with respect to the PEP is consistent with the view of the CSE community that only poor performance should be penalized. From the outset of the performance measure debate , there was a concern about whether states should be subject to penalties and be eligible for incentives at the same time.

Some argued that the lack of an incentive payment would make some states doubly penalized by not improving performance. It was decided that states should be eligible for incentive payments based on performance even if they were subject to penalties because their performance had not improved to the extent required to avoid the penalty. The CSE incentive payment system adds an element of uncertainty to what used to be a somewhat predictable source of income for states. Although in the aggregate, states receive higher incentive payments than under the earlier incentive payment system, these totals are a fixed amount, and individual states have to compete with each other for their share of the capped funds.

The capped incentive payment system creates an interactive effect—an increase in incentive payments to one state must be matched by a decrease in payments to other states. Similarly, if one state's performance weakens or the state fails an audit, every other state obtains an increase in incentive payments.

Although CSE incentive payments were constructed to compare a state's program performance to itself rather than a "national average," the fixed amount of aggregate incentive payments forces a state to compete with the other states for its share of the aggregate amount. Under the current incentive system, whether or not a state receives an incentive payment for good performance and the total amount of the incentive payment depend on four factors: the total amount of money available in a given fiscal year from which to make incentive payments, the state's success in obtaining collections on behalf of its caseload, the state's performance in five areas, and the relative success or failure of other states in making collections and meeting these performance criteria.

Because the incentive payments are now capped, some states face a loss of incentive payments even if they improve their performance.

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Some analysts argue that each state is unique in terms of its CSE caseload and thereby should only have to make improvements over its own performance in previous years with regard to rewarding of incentive payments. So even though Texas has a large CSE caseload, shares an international border, and has vast cultural and socioeconomic diversity among its residents, its program is in essence compared to that of a small mid-western state or a wealthy northeastern state in determining its share of CSE incentive dollars.

Others contend that if a state deems that it has not received a sufficient amount of incentive payments and that more CSE funding is necessary, it is the state's prerogative to augment federal funding. They maintain that the federal government is carrying too much of the financial burden of the CSE program.

As mentioned earlier, the CSE funding structure requires states to spend state dollars on the program in order to receive federal matching funds. CSE incentive payments in past years 70 had been an important source of those state dollars.

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Several past studies indicated that most of the best-performing state CSE programs also had the most generous funding levels. The OCSE expects that while some states will increase their state contributions to cover some of the lost federal funds, they will not completely make up the shortfall and overall CSE expenditures will be reduced. Several state officials we interviewed confirmed that they were using the reinstated incentive match funds to sustain program operations and avoid layoffs during tight state budget climates. This is unlike prior years, when incentive match funds might have been used for long-term projects because funding was more predictable.

Looking to the future, several of the state officials we interviewed described funding uncertainty surrounding the expiration of the incentive match in fiscal year , as well as state budget situations. Not knowing whether the incentive match will be extended again or how much their future state CSE appropriations will be has made planning more difficult. Several officials emphasized that even states that maintained overall expenditure levels when the incentive match was eliminated in fiscal year may not be able to do so again in fiscal year , as many state budget situations have worsened since the economic recession.

Some officials also noted that the delivery of services beyond the core mission of the CSE program—such as job skills training and fatherhood initiatives—is particularly uncertain. These officials also told us that, although they believe that these services and partnerships are necessary to continue increasing their collections, particularly from noncustodial parents who are underemployed or have barriers to maintaining employment, these services would be reduced to preserve core services in the event of dramatic budget shortfalls. Many in the CSE community argue that any reduction in the federal government's financial commitment to the CSE system could negatively affect states' ability to serve families.

Appendix A. Before enactment of the CSE program in , when a state or locality collected child support payments from a noncustodial parent on behalf of a family receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children AFDC , the federal government was reimbursed for its share of the cost of AFDC payments to the family. Therefore the localities were not eligible for any share of the "savings" that occurred when child support was collected from a noncustodial parent on behalf of an AFDC family.

From the debate on the establishment of a CSE program, Congress concluded that a fiscal sharing in the results of child support collections could be a strong incentive for encouraging the local units of government to improve their CSE activities. Although the formal CSE program was not in existence, P. Title IV-A included the child support enforcement provisions indicated above.

This meant that if a state collected child support payments on behalf of an AFDC family, the federal government would be reimbursed at the state's FMAP. The incentive payment came out of the federal share of the child support recovered i. Instead of making incentive payments to localities and states that collected child support payments on another state's behalf, the federal government made the incentive payments directly to the states 82 and each state was required to pass incentive payments through to local CSE agencies if those agencies shared in funding the state CSE program.

The incentive payments came out of the federal share of the child support recovered i. Commission on Interstate Child Support to make recommendations to Congress on improving the child support program. That Commission's report called for a study of the federal funding formula and changes to an incentive structure that is based on performance. The Incentive Funding Workgroup was formed in October This group consisted of 15 state and local CSE directors or their representatives and 11 federal staff representatives from HHS.

Earlier efforts of this state-federal partnership produced the National Strategic Plan for the CSE program and a set of outcome measures to indicate the program's success in achieving the goals and objectives of the plan. Using the same collaboration and consensus-building approach, state and federal partners recommended a new incentive funding system based on the foundation of the CSE National Strategic Plan.

Over a period of three months, recommendations for the new incentive funding system emerged. State partners consulted with state CSE programs not represented directly on the Workgroup. The final recommendations represented a consensus among state and federal partners on the new incentive funding system. The Secretary fully endorsed the incentive formula recommendations. This law replaced the old incentive payment system to states with a revised revenue-neutral incentive payment system that provides 1 incentive payments based on a percentage of the state's collections; 2 incorporation of five performance measures related to establishment of paternity and child support orders, collections of current and past-due support payments, and cost-effectiveness; 3 phase-in of the incentive system, with it being fully effective beginning in FY; 4 mandatory reinvestment of incentive payments into the CSE program or an activity that contributes to improving the effectiveness or efficiency of the CSE program ; and 5 an incentive payment formula weighted in favor of TANF and former TANF families.

For years after FY, the aggregate incentive payment to the states is to be increased to account for inflation. Appendix B includes several detailed state tables. Table B Note: The table shows the rank order of each state from state with the highest incentive payment ranked 1 to the state with the lowest incentive payment ranked Because of conflicting information and data in other reports Guam's PEP score of The enacting legislation P.

In , pursuant to P. However, P. The unaudited incentive performance scores are readily available each year when the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement OCSE publishes its preliminary data report. In this report the unaudited scores serve as a proxy for the actual audited performance indicator scores upon which actual incentive payments are based. OCSE does not consistently publish actual audited performance indicator scores. Under old AFDC law, the rate at which states were reimbursed by the federal government for the costs of cash welfare was the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage FMAP , which varies inversely with state per capita income i.

Like the old AFDC program, current law requires that child support collections made on behalf of welfare i. Thus, states with a larger FMAP keep a smaller portion of the child support collections. There was an additional limit i. In addition, the old incentive payment system incorporated only one performance measure i. One of the main criticisms of the old incentive payment system was that it did not provide an incentive for states to improve their programs because every state regardless of performance received the minimum incentive payment.

There was general agreement by Congress that states whose CSE programs performed poorly should not be rewarded with federal funds. Beginning in FY, child support incentive payments were no longer paid out of the federal share of child support collections made on behalf of TANF families. Instead, federal funds have been specifically appropriated out of the U. Treasury for CSE incentive payments. Department of Health and Human Services. News Release.

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March 13, The CSE program serves both welfare and nonwelfare families in its caseload. If the noncustodial parent owes support for two children by different women, that would be considered two cases; if both children have the same mother, that would be considered one case. At the low end of the performance scale, there is a minimum level below which a state is not rewarded with an incentive payment unless the state demonstrates a substantial improvement over the prior year's performance.

The substantial improvement provisions do not apply with respect to the cost-effectiveness performance measure.

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It was decided during the negotiations on revising the incentive payment system that, because collecting child support on behalf of TANF and former-TANF families is generally more difficult than collecting child support on behalf of families who had never been on TANF, the incentive formula should provide a greater emphasis on collection in TANF and former TANF cases. Moreover, it was mentioned that collections in TANF cases provide direct savings to the state and federal governments. Child Support Enforcement Incentive Funding.

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February According to the federal regulations 45 CFR Part Then the state retains one-fourth of its annual estimate of incentive payments from the federal government's share of child support collected on behalf of TANF families each quarter. Following the end of a fiscal year, the OCSE will calculate the actual incentive payment the state should have received based on the reports submitted for that fiscal year. If adjustments to the estimate are necessary, the state's quarterly TANF grant award will be reduced or increased because of over- or under-estimates for prior quarters and for other adjustments.

Thereby, the audit of FY October 1, September 30, incentive payment data would usually begin in January and generally would be completed by July Once the audit is completed, estimated incentive payments would be reconciled with actual incentive payments. Title 45 CFR Section