SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod Blagojevich announced that the Illinois Department of Public Aid (IDPA) recovered an $89,000 windfall – the largest collection in the state’s history -- for a Jackson County mother of four children through the Passport Denial Program, a successful partnership with the U.S. State Department.
A father who was in Germany and had not had contact with his former spouse and children for 15 years promptly submitted an $89,000 check when he was barred from obtaining a new passport until he paid up his debt in full.
“Talk about the long arm of the law,” said Gov. Blagojevich, who has made upgrading child support enforcement a key priority of his administration. “You can run from your child support obligation, but there’s nowhere on earth to hide if you’re ever going to want to get your passport renewed. This is a great example of how we are working with our federal partners and using every tool at our disposal to turn up the heat on deadbeat parents.”
The Passport Denial Program targets delinquent parents who owe more than $5,000 and bars them from obtaining a new passport or renewing an existing passport. It has registered strong gains this year. In less than a full fiscal year, the program has doubled receipts from the previous year, recovering $410,000 from a total of 37 cases.
IDPA Director Barry S. Maram attributed the increased recoveries in part to improvements in Department’s database, which was recently granted formal certification by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.
“We’ve tightened up our database and we’re making sure that the State Department has an up-to-date list of all the state’s most serious child support scofflaws,” Maram said. “If you owe more than $5,000 for an Illinois child support case, you can forget about getting a new passport until you pay up the entire debt.”
The program was authorized by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.
The law requires the U.S. State Department to refuse to issue a passport or renew a passport for anyone who is certified as owing a child support debt greater than $5,000.
DCSE forwards a computer tape to federal authorities each month of cases that are eligible for the program. State Department officials crosscheck all passport applications against a master list and automatically deny applications for anyone on the list.
In the case in Germany, child support officials believe the non-custodial parent was living in Germany and needed to renew his passport in order to return to the U.S. The Department was contacted by the man’s attorney, who forwarded a check for $89,401.08 that was received on Feb. 10. The entire sum was forwarded to the custodial parent, who was very surprised to hear the good news.
The payment was the largest ever recorded by Illinois’ Passport Denial Program.
In another recent case, Pashia Acree, of Harrisburg, received a check for $16,910 last November, one month after her home was destroyed by an electrical fire.
“That money couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Acree. She said her ex, the father of her twin boys, was forced to pay up after he married a woman from Finland and he tried to get a passport so he could visit his new bride’s family.
The Department estimates it will take in a record $922 million in total child support payments in the current fiscal year ending June 30, and projects $989 million in payments for fiscal year 2005.
The agency uses a number of other tools to recover unpaid child support, including: intercepting state and federal tax refunds; suspending Illinois professional licenses; placing liens on real and personal property; collaborating with the Illinois Department of Revenue and private collection agencies; and reporting the debt to credit reporting agencies.
In addition, IDPA launched a Deadbeat parents Web site in November that features photos of parents who owe more than $5,000 in past due child support and have made no voluntary payments in 90 days. These cases are only publicized if the custodial parent grants authorization.
In December, federal officials gave their official seal of approval to IDPA’s Key Information Delivery System (KIDS), the database that maintains records of all 700,000child support cases in the state. Child support officials said that improvements to the data base in recent years have enabled the Department to ensure that all eligible non-custodial parents are included in the lists provided to the federal child support agency.