Friday, February 23, 2001

Wrong checks add to agency's support payment troubles

Advocates ready to file lawsuit

By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS, Ohio — Officials on Thursday acknowledged that a contractor printed a batch of child support checks on the wrong color paper, causing concern that banks won't cash the checks.

        The information surfaced a day before an advocacy group planned to sue the state over problems with its child support system.

        In addition, state Sen. Mark Mallory, D-Cincinnati, criticized the state for allowing the contractor, Bank One, to charge non-customers $3 to cash child support checks that are drawn on a state account.

        Bank One has a five-year, $125 million contract with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to process and distribute the state's child support payments.

        Under the contract, county child support offices send pay ments to the state, which then deposits the money in the Bank One account for distribution.

        The check-printing error and Mr. Mallory's criticisms are the latest child-support problems the state Department of Job and Family Services has had to deal with this month.

        Earlier this month, the agency acknowledged that it owes parents at least $3 million in back child support payments because it didn't reprogram its computer system.

        The Association for Children for Enforcement of Support, a Toledo-based national organization that works on child support issues, planned to sue the state this morning.

        The group was demanding an immediate fix to the problems with the child support system and immediate payment for parents whose money was withheld since October, said Geraldine Jensen, the group's president.

        Meanwhile, Bank One and the state are trying to make sure child support recipients and other banks know that the misprinted checks are authentic, said Jon Allen, the Department of Job and Family Services' spokesman.

        “When people have tried to cash these, they look like a photo copy,” Mr. Allen said, noting that they are on plain white paper instead of blue patterned paper.

        Jeff Lyttle, bank spokesman, did not return calls about the misprinted checks on Thursday.

        As many as 1,100 Ohio child support checks may have been written on an incorrect paper stock by Bank One on Feb. 12 and mailed to custodial parents Feb. 13, the bank said in a written statement Thursday evening.

        Earlier, Mr. Lyttle responded to Mr. Mallory's demand that Bank One exempt child support recipients from paying the bank's check-cashing fee.

        Mr. Lyttle said that processing fees are an industry standard and that people who are customers at other banks can cash their child-support checks at those institutions for free.

        Mr. Mallory said a check-cashing waiver should have been included in the state's contract with Bank One.


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- Wrong checks add to agency's support payment troubles
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