Who Should Pay for Voluntary Child Support Services in Iowa?
Iowa's Senator Seeks Clarification to Veer from Federal Regulations
Would you pay for services that you don't receive? Just last week Sen. Chuck Grassley sought guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding Iowa's child support enforcement program and how best to address a new fee requirement within the federal guidelines of how the state's child support enforcement program is intended to operate. Senator Grassley's solution to the recent federal legislation requiring a fee for services is to go against the proposed federal regulations enacting the changes and requests that the applicant of the services not be required to pay for the services that they choose to apply for and receive from the government.
The commenting period of the proposed federal regulations affecting child support enforcement that are going into effect later this year expired on March 26, 2007, according to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (United States. Administration for Children and Families. Federal Register. Vol. 72. No. 15. January 24, 2007). Despite Senator Grassley's failure to get his comments of the proposed regulations in on time, he appeals with his letter to the now resigned Dr. Wade Horn, who in the past has overseen the child support enforcement program administered under Title IV Part D of the Social Security Act.
Aside from the Senator's untimely response to the federal regulations, Senator Grassley issues his concerns without presenting the majority of the facts and overlooks a key set of points that the constituent taxpayers should be informed of. Right now the Title IV Part D program (Title IV-D) that Iowa voluntarily participates in to receive certain federal block grants and incentive payments for their child support enforcement program is focusing the program on revenue generation for the state and not focusing the program to assist actual means tested needy families.
The Iowa State program suffers tremendous over participation of families that are 150% or higher above the poverty-line. Because of the significant level of over participation from wealthier families receiving voluntary services at no cost the failure of collections for the mandatory lower-income participants are going unnoticed while the program is being touted as a success. Essentially the mandatory participation in the state child support enforcement program by families receiving other forms of government assistance are being left behind while the state focuses on adding higher-income families and focusing resources on easier targets through income-withholding orders to continue maximizing federal funding received by the state of Iowa.
After reviewing the "Grassley Solution" proposed to the U.S. AFCF by the Senator, he is advocating for the recovery of the federally mandated application fee to be recovered from what he labels as an "absent-parent" instead of by the parent requesting the voluntary services by "withholding it from child support collections from the absent parent, and then collecting an additional $25.00 in child support to keep the custodial parent whole."
Where a benefit recipient is determined to voluntarily request services using an application for child support enforcement services, it would be more than appropriate for the State of Iowa to follow the proposed rule by the Administration for Children and Families stating that "Retaining the annual fee from support collected on behalf of the family may be the least administratively burdensome method when collections in excess of the first $500 are disbursed to the family."
The Grassley Solution will certainly raise administration costs associated with the child support enforcement program and further take the focus off the people that need the program the most and since the application fee will only be taken out after the services are proving successful to the family requesting the services, Senator Grassley is hard-pressed to justify his solution that will result in increased administration expenses to be reimbursed by our federal tax dollars.
Reigning in the Title IV-D program is good for our taxpayers, good for parents, and most of all good for children.