March 7, 2012
By Ned Holstein, MD, MS, Chairman of the Board of Directors
Spud McConnell, a well-known movie actor, also hosts a popular New Orleans talk radio show, Talk Gumbo on New Orleans radio station WWL-AM 870/FM105.3. On February 28, 2012, Fathers and Families’ Chairman of the Board Ned Holstein, MD, appeared on the show to discuss new child support rules promulgated by the federal government.
Listen to interview.
In yet another measure that will harm children instead of helping them, the new rule effects how much money can be seized for payment of child support arrearages from people who receive federal benefits, such as social security, disability and veterans’ payments.
Currently, the states can ask the federal government to “garnish” money from checks the federal government is writing to those who receive benefits for the purpose of paying child support arrearages. In other words, money can be taken out of the check before it is ever written. The states can receive that money, and the individual gets a smaller check. The federal government limits the “garnish” to 65% of the check.
Under new rules that are slated to go into effect in March, 2013, the federal government will pay such benefits electronically. There will be no checks. The money will simply appear in the bank account of the recipient. And that’s where the problem lies. Because there is no limit on how much money the states can seize from the bank account of the people who owe child support. They can — and will — take it all, leaving the recipient of federal benefits no funds to live on.
This will cause tens of thousands of elderly, disabled, and veterans to become homeless. It is even worse, because most of the money collected will be kept by the states for their own purposes; it will never go to a mother or child. In many cases, the arrearages are very, very old. The children for whom the child support is allegedly being collected are grown. And much of the money owed is accumulated interest and fees. These accumulate during the long years that poor people are unable to pay their child support order, or have been disabled or laid off.
Internal memos show that the treasury department, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the state child support collection agencies are all aware of what will happen next March. Apparently, they just don’t care.
Here is what our readers need to understand. No one is going to save us from these abuses. There is no wise judge, dedicated advocate for the poor, or civil rights advocate who is going to save us. We will overcome these abuses, and dozens more like them, by banding together and demanding change. Americans have overthrown injustice over and over again in our history.
We will do it again.