|We've got NEWS|
|Monday, December 21, 1998 |
Tommy G. Thompson
News Media Contact
DWD News Office
New centralized child support
Madison, Wis. -- About 100,000 Wisconsin child support payers will begin sending their payments to a single state location beginning next month, while all child support checks will be mailed to recipients from just one location.
"As simple as those changes sound, it constitutes perhaps the most sweeping revamping of child support collections and disbursements in state history," said Linda Stewart, Secretary of the State Department of Workforce Development (DWD).
"After all, Wisconsin currently has about 500,000 child support cases involving as many as 610,000 children. By the end of this month, they will have received more than $830 million during the previous 12 months.
"Just about any change we make in this system thus can have an impact on many people."
Stewart said the new process also means changes for others.
Employers who are required to withhold child support from paychecks until now have sent checks each time to each county with support orders for their workers. That could mean mailings to as many as 72 counties. By April, they will be able to make one payment covering all workers with Wisconsin child support orders, regardless of location.
Also affected are state government and each of Wisconsins 72 county child support agencies which, until now, have received and paid out the money for cases in their counties.
The goal of the changes, authorized earlier by state law, is to increase child support collections, distribute collections more equitably, increase the accuracy and efficiency of collection processing and tracking, and comply with new federal legislation, Stewart said.
"Wisconsin consistently has been a model for other states in child support program operation," Stewart said. "We are pleased to be ahead of the game again and months ahead of the deadline set by federal law for the statewide centralization of these payments."
She also said the system also will be of help to families in the states welfare-replacement, work-based, W-2 program. "Unlike other states which make deductions in child support payments they collect, Wisconsin passes along all of what it received to those in this program."
For child support payers and recipients, it will mean several changes in what has become to many a familiar system.
Both groups will benefit from the new system for several reasons, including more detailed information available to them about their accounts. A toll-free information line also will operate 23 hours a day, seven days a week.
Child support payers who pay directly, rather than through income withholding, in the future also will mail checks or money orders to the new state-created Wisconsin Support Collections Trust Fund. The Trust Fund is located in Milwaukee.
That affects about 30 per cent, or 100,000, of those currently making child support payments. The other 70 per cent have their support payments automatically deducted from their paychecks. About 330,000 cases currently have at least some payments being made.
For those paying directly, it means mainly a different mailing address on the payment envelope unless they wish to make cash payments in those counties which still will accept them or they have made arrangements for automatic payment deductions from their bank accounts.
Most counties have agreed to continue receiving cash payments. They will forward that money to the Trust Fund.
Payers also will notice that the payment coupons they use may be different in design, and they may need to take an extra few minutes to adjust to the new format.
They also will be able to write one check to insure prorated allocation to all children for whom support orders have been issued, instead of having to write a separate check for each case.
If non-custodial parents have child support cases in more than one county, they no longer will be able to make payments in some cases and ignore others, as sometimes has happened in the past. Any payment they make will be automatically prorated by the state among all of their cases.
The Trust Fund will receive its first collections Jan. 4, with an average of 20,000 checks expected to be received each day.
For child support recipients, another impact of the change will mean that some will receive their checks 1-3 days later than in the past.
Any change they see in the check receipt date will be the result of the added mail processing time needed because collections and child support checks are mailed to and from just one state location.
Once the first check is received under the new system, however, the amount of time between checks should be about the same.
Child support payers still must mail their payments by the date specified in each court order. Most payments are required weekly, every two weeks, or monthly.
About 40 per cent of all child support cases are in Milwaukee County, however, so mail delays for those living in southeastern Wisconsin are less likely, Stewart said. That was one of the reasons a Milwaukee location was chosen as the collection site.
Those recipients whose payers live out of state probably will not be affected at all, or as much, since those payers will continue to mail the payment to a single Wisconsin location, as usual.
In some cases, the checks they receive will be smaller because a payer has multiple cases and makes less than a complete payment each month. Those payments then are prorated among all of the cases.
"For some child support recipients," Stewart said, "it may be the first time they realize that the non-custodial parent has other children and other child support orders. That may be a shock."
The first checks will be mailed by the Trust Fund Tuesday, Jan. 5. About 310,000 checks currently are mailed each month.
For county child support agencies, it means they still will handle cash payments, and immediate payments on arrears ordered by a judge. Those agencies also will continue to be responsible for pursuing those who underpay or make no payments.
For the state, it means the the expansion of a partnership between DWD, the State Administration Department (DOA), county clerks and child support agencies, and IBM Global.
That partnership now is being expanded to include Lockheed Martin IMS of Teaneck, N.J., and Firstar Bank of Milwaukee.
DWD will have overall day-to-day responsibility for the states child support program, working with the counties to make sure payments are received and distributed, and that non-routine cases receive the appropriate attention. It also operates the Kids Information Data System (KIDS) used to record all data about each child support case.
DOA provides and maintains the computer hardware systems used by KIDS, while IBM Global provides the KIDS program software and support.
Lockheed Martin will operate the Milwaukee processing center on behalf of the Trust Fund. It will process incoming receipts and will provide payment information to the KIDS system.
The state has signed a three-year, $19.9 million contract with Lockheed Martin to receive and post child support collections each day. The company processes 15 per cent, or $1.8 billion, of the nations child support payments annually through its child support services contracts in 15 states and the District of Columbia.
Firstar Milwaukee will print and mail checks to custodial parents after the KIDS system has recorded the collections in the payers cases. Firstar has a subcontract with Lockheed Martin to print and mail checks to those authorized to receive them.
Firstar also has been Wisconsins official bank for over 25 years and is an existing partner of the Workforce Development Department in other programs.
Stewart made these other points:
For an e-mail version of this news release,