|We've got NEWS|
|Monday, May 24, 1999 |
Tommy G. Thompson
News Media Contact
DWD News Office
Wisconsin collects record high of
$304.9 million in child support
MADISON--In the first four months of operating under a centralized receipt and disbursement system, Wisconsin collected a record high of $304.9 million in child support, an increase of $20.3 million over the same time period in 1998.
The increase in collections is encouraging and is anticipated to be part of a larger trend, according to state workforce development officials. In 1999, the state estimates it will issue 4.6 million checks and receipt over $900 million, a $50 million increase over 1998.
According to estimates by the Department of Workforce Development, as many as 5,200 children received child support payments as a result of the $20.3 million increase in payments over the last four months. Approximately 20,750 more children will receive child support in 1999 as a result of the projected $50 million increase over 1998 collections, the department estimates.
"Children are our number one priority, and it is clear that under the centralized receipt and disbursement system we are collecting more money for Wisconsins children," said Linda Stewart, Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development.
"The centralized processing of payments provides the level of automation Wisconsin needs to keep pace with the increase in collections and provide regular and timely child support payments to families."
The Wisconsin Support Collection Trust Fund, operated under a contract with Lockheed Martin IMS, centralizes all collection and disbursement of child support at a single collection site. Centralized receipt and disbursement is a federally mandated program that was put into effect with the support of business leaders. Wisconsins program was set into action in January, eight months ahead of the October 1999 federal deadline.
With the new system in place, companies who are required to withhold child support from paychecks, can write one check to the Trust Fund instead of issuing multiple checks to each county where child support payments are owed. Until this time, employers sent checks to each county where child support orders were due. That meant mailings to as many as 72 counties. Now businesses are able to make one payment covering all workers with Wisconsin child support orders, regardless of location.
Until the system was set into law, Wisconsins 72 county-based child support agencies received and paid out the money for their perspective cases. Today, the Trust Fund averages 22,000 disbursements daily and all automated payments are required to be receipted and disbursed within 48 hours.
The transition to the states centralized receipt and disbursement program has resulted in historic increases in child support collections. In April, child support collections through the trust fund and the tax intercept program totaled $88 million, an all-time high in child support collections. On April 6, the child support system receipted $6.5 million, approximately 25 percent more than a typical Monday night. In addition, collections topped $5 million on three days in March.
"Wisconsins child support program has consistently been a model for other states," said Linda Stewart. "The centralized receipt and disbursement program gives Wisconsin the tools to remain a leader in child support enforcement. We have one of the most effective and cost efficient child support programs in the nation."
In fact, according to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, the 1997 Preliminary Data Report indicates:
The conversion to the centralized system constitutes perhaps the most sweeping revamping of child support collections and disbursements in state history. Wisconsin currently has about 450,000 child support cases involving as many as 610,000 children.
The centralized receipt and disbursement system was established with the goals of increasing child support collections, distributing collections more equitably, and increasing accuracy and efficiency of collection processing and tracking.
Under the new system, payers and payees receive more detailed information about their accounts. In addition, payers are able to write one check to insure prorated allocation to all children whom support orders have been issued, instead of having to write a check for each case. If non-custodial parents have child support cases in more than one county, they no longer are 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 the cases.
Currently, the Trust Fund disburses $3.1 million daily, and 98% of the payments are disbursed within 48 hours. Approximately 2 percent of the payments may be delayed because the Trust Fund requires additional information before it can be processed.
"We will not be satisfied until we can receipt and disburse 100% of the payments within 48 hours," said Linda Stewart. "Families rely on child support payments and it is our job to educate employers about the steps to making payments to assure they will be processed within the two day period."