Chicago – Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced that the Illinois Department of Public Aid’s (IDPA) Child Support Enforcement Division was awarded $7 million in federal incentive money this year for attaining improvements in key statistical benchmarks.
The bonus is the highest amount earned by Illinois in the history of the program. The incentive money will be spent on upgrading the division’s high tech tools with a focus on continuing improvements to customer service and cracking down on deadbeat parents.
“This is a clear sign that our efforts to upgrade Child Support Enforcement are getting results,” the Governor said. “But the great news here is that these funds will be invested right back into the program, allowing us to achieve even more progress in the years ahead.”
Illinois earned $7.1 million in federal incentive funds for recording more than a five percent gain in the number of child support orders established.
IDPA Child Support Enforcement officials plan to use a portion of the incentive money to upgrade the Division’s database, which will give front line child support workers the tools to answer questions more quickly and be more responsive to client needs. In addition, the funds will be used to purchase new telephone system hardware. This will expand the Division’s capacity to receive and route calls and should reduce wait times even further.
In the last year, the unit has successfully transitioned over 15 toll-free numbers throughout the state into a single 800 number where child support customers can promptly receive answers to basic questions via an automated voice response (AVRS) system. Questions that can’t be answered through the AVRS are channeled to live operators. The switch has resulted in more customers being served by customer service specialists, while freeing caseworkers to focus on getting cases ready for establishment or enforcement of orders.
In addition, this fall, the agency unveiled a secure, on-line service option that gives customers access to basic information about their cases, such as account balances, income withholding information and appointment dates. This service will soon be enhanced so that customers can input information, such as address changes.
“Our goal is to harness high technology so we can do a better job of serving our customers,” said IDPA Director Barry Maram. “The new system we have put in place, and the planned upgrades, will make it easier for customers to obtain basic information about their child support case. And they also enable child support workers to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.”
The Child Support Enforcement Division has also been mounting an aggressive crackdown on deadbeat parents.
The Division’s Collection and Asset Recovery Unit recorded a 40 percent increase in collections in FY 2004. The unit employs an aggressive approach to collecting delinquent child support, imposing liens on real and personal property. It collected $2.4 million more in FY 2004, seizing more than $7.5 million in delinquent child support payments. The gains have continued in FY 2005, with the unit’s receipts up by almost 18 percent.
Earlier this year, the Child Support unit announced that it collected a record $950 million in payments in state FY 2004, a ten percent gain from the previous year and $27 million more than it had projected.
“Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Blagojevich, IDPA’s Child Support Enforcement Division has made major gains in the last two years,” said Maram. “We intend to continue to build on these gains. We intend to leverage this Federal incentive money so that we can do an even better job of delivering critical economic support to families.”