Monday, March 12, 2001

State had plan to fix support payments 3 years ago

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The state had a plan three years ago to correct problems involved with improperly withholding child support payments, but never put it into effect, The Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday.

        The plan proposed new rules for distributing child support payments, beginning in October 1998. The newspaper, which obtained a copy of the plan from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, did not specify what the plan entailed.

        Department officials have come under fire in recent weeks for improperly withholding an estimated $6.5 million from child support checks for custodial parents on welfare. The total represents money diverted to the state from noncustodial parents paying off overdue child support.

        The state had been allowed to take those payments as a reimbursement for welfare payments to custodial parents. However, that practice was banned by federal law in 1996 and the money was supposed to flow directly to the custodial parents. The provision took effect in October 1997 but was ignored at the time in Ohio.

        The department began sending refund checks to custodial parents Friday.

        Jo Ann Davidson, former Ohio House speaker picked as interim director of the department March 3, said she is concentrating on the agency's future instead of looking at past mistakes.

        Geraldine Jensen, president of the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support said existence of a plan to fix the payment problem seems to indicate department officials were indifferent to custodial parents' best interests.

        Ms. Jensen's organization has sued the department in a state appeals court.


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- State had plan to fix support payments 3 years ago
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