Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Panel OKs $7.4M for troubled system


Cash asked to fix child-support backlog

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services received an additional $7.4 million Monday to keep running and improve its troubled child-support computer system, which has been blamed for depriving back payments owed to thousands of single parents.

        The money will help the depart ment make improvements to the Support Enforcement Tracking System, which must meet federal guidelines by October if the state is to avoid penalties that could total millions.

        The state Controlling Board approved the request 6-1 over the objection of Sen. Rhine McLin, a Dayton Democrat who said the department should have to prove it is spending money wisely.

        The board's approval adds $6.5 million to contracts currently held by three companies for the rest of the current budget year, which ends June 30. That brings the total value of the three contracts to $35 million for the current fiscal year.

        Since 1995, the state has paid nearly $120 million to the three companies — American Management Systems of Fairfax, Va., Keane Inc. of Dublin, Ohio, and Complete Business Solutions of Farmington Hills, Mich.

        In a related vote, the Controlling Board approved a $912,000 request to upgrade software in SETS computers.

        The SETS system collects child-support data from Ohio's 88 counties. The state uses the infor mation to process collections from people who owe support payments, then sends checks to custodial parents.

        The state says it might owe parents about $6 million in back child support. However, a child advocacy group said the amount could be as much as $13 million.

        China Widener, ODJFS' acting deputy director for child support, told the Controlling Board that the agency is working to meet the federal guidelines by October. The extra money will help the agency meet those goals, she said.

       



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