April 24, 2020
Regular readers of this blog know that the CARES Act that provided stimulus checks to most Americans also carved out one, and only one, exception. These checks would be “offset” (reduced by) any past-due child support. (Read Robert Franklin’s recent article about this here.)
This was a mean-spirited provision, driven by decades of vilification of child support obligors, and reflecting ignorance of what happens when past-due child support is collected in this way. The stereotype of child support obligor in arrears as people who are callously allowing their children to suffer hardship while they live high on the hog is total rubbish. Most obligors who are in default are poor, having been ordered to pay more than they can or having lost income and had their child support obligation adjusted. These parents are hurting.
The ignorance of the effects of this action are multiple. In passing this legislation, our legislators forgot that child support obligors often have their children in their care 25% of the time, or more. So, creating hardship for these parents is creating hardship for their children, too. And much of the money collected by confiscating these stimulus checks will not go to the other parent for the benefit of the children. By law, a significant portion of the funds will be kept by the federal and state governments to recoup the cost of public assistance given to that parent. This not only undermines the intended effect of the CARES Act to help family get through these harsh time but it undermines the goal of stimulating the economy.
NPO was gratified to see that the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA)—the organization of agencies charged with establishing and enforcing child support obligations—also has concerns about this provision of the CARES Act. NCSEA calculates that between $1.7 billion and $2.5 billion of the relief funds collected by the offset—funds intended for the benefit parents and children—will, instead, go to federal and state government.
NCSEA’s Board of Directors passed the following resolution:
NCSEA’s reasons for taking this extraordinary step are important. They reflect an appreciation of the fact that child support obligors are parents and those in arrears are typically among those most in need of the stimulus funds.
This is a very significant step by NCSEA. As the organization that represents the agencies that establish and enforce child support obligations and, so, work most closely with obligors and recipients of child support, NCSEA’s voice is an important one. NPO congratulates the organization on standing up for what’s right and fair.
NCSEA can’t do this alone. We need to put pressure on Congress to address this problem. If you haven’t already done so, please help us spur Congress to do the right thing by following the directions here.