Dept of Health and Welfare: Child support threat real

(Updated 5:05 pm)

Tom Shanahan, public information officer for the Department of Health Welfare, said Monday Idaho has 60 days to get its child support code into compliance with the federal Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, or access to federal child support tools and $16 million in federal funding will be cut off.

The federal funding accounts for two-thirds of the state’s child support enforcement budget.

Last week, the House tabled a bill that would put into Idaho code amendments to the federal child support act. The federal government requires all states to adopt the language into code this year in order to continue receiving federal funding and support for child support enforcement.

Shanahan said Idaho department officials had a conference call with the Vicki Turetsky, commissioner for the federal Office of Child Support and Enforcement (OCSE). Turetsky told officials that she will send the department a letter by the end of the week to give an official 60-day warning for compliance. If the state hasn’t adopted the language by the end of the 60 day period, the funding and access to information portals will be cut off.

While the funding is a serious concern, the department is especially worried about the interstate portal, Shanahan said. That information is critical to collecting child support for Idaho families when the parent lives in another state, and also allows other states to collect child support from Idaho parents.

Shahanah said so far, Idaho is the only state that has declined to add the language to code. Turetsky told Shanahan after Idaho failed to pass the legislation, OCSE polled states who hadn’t yet addressed it. Those states assured the office they will soon add the language, and they don’t anticipate problems, Shanahan said.

Currently, child support payments go through the health and welfare department and are distributed to families, Shanahan said. Without those federal tools and dollars, every one of Idaho’s 155,000 child support cases would be affected, and the department wouldn’t be able to process the payments.

The department wrote a blog post about the call, which you can read here. 

As far as whether Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter will call a special session or try to find a fix through executive action, Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said Monday the office is still researching options. Hanian said Otter and his staff are also working with the Department of Health and Welfare to fully understand the implications of not passing the legislation.

“We’re hoping to get some answers on that soon,” Hanian said.

On Monday afternoon, the governor released a statement: “I am concerned that some members of the House Judiciary and Rules Committee put Idaho’s child support system at serious risk by killing Senate Bill 1067 in the waning hours of the 2015 legislative session. We are analyzing the impacts of the committee’s actions and what they mean for the 400,000 people who depend on Idaho’s system.”

On Friday, the House Judiciary and Rules Committee voted to table the legislation, citing concerns of due process, privacy, and worries of Idaho being forced to uphold foreign court and Sharia law judgments without being allowed to overview the case.
Read our full coverage on our blog, Catch our full run-down here.

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