CHICAGO – Gov. Blagojevich today announced that the State of Illinois will collect a record-breaking $1 billion in child support payments this year. The funds will provide 386,000 Illinois parents with the money they need to care for their children. This dramatic turnaround follows years of poor child support collection. But, over the past two years, Governor Blagojevich launched a number of innovative and aggressive programs to improve collection to help working parents, including the Deadbeat Parents Website and the New Hire Directory hotline.
“To raise a healthy and happy child, it takes love, patience, understanding – and money. Children need clothes to wear and food to eat. Every year, it gets more expensive to provide for a child and every year even more parents are raising their children alone,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “When I was running for governor, the child support system in our state was the worst in the nation. But over the past two and a half years we have taken major steps to turn the system around, and our efforts are paying off. This year, we set a new record in child support collections, and we’re sending a clear message to deadbeat parents –If you don’t pay up, the state of Illinois is coming after you.”
In the mid-1990s, the Illinois Department of Public Aid’s Child Support Enforcement Division’s performance fell steeply, causing hardship for thousands of Illinois parents. In fact, in 2000, Illinois faced the serious threat of federal penalties for poor child support enforcement. Since Governor Blagojevich was elected in 2002, his Administration has worked to turn Illinois’ record around to help struggling single parents meet their families’ needs.
“We are doing what needs to be done quickly and efficiently to ensure that our most vulnerable children get the support they need and deserve,” said Barry Maram, director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS).
Child support is the second largest income source for low-income families who qualify for the program. In 2003, more than 846,735 children in Illinois were owed child support payments totaling about $3 billion, with a collection rate of 28 percent. Today, the collection rate is 32 percent, with 741,787 children’s support being enforced by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
Collections on cases receiving enforcement services from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (formerly IL Dept. of Public Aid) grew 8.5 percent, surpassing the national average of 3 percent growth. More than $100 million of the $1 billion collected went to parents whose child support was severely overdue.
To help more working parents provide for their children and leading to this year’s record-breaking $1 billion in collections, Governor Blagojevich launched a number of critical programs including:
• The Deadbeat Parents Website. In November 2003, Governor Blagojevich launched the Deadbeat Parents Website that identified parents who owe more than $5,000 in child support payments, resulting in the collection of over $172,000 in back payments in 18 months of operation (http://www.ilchildsupport.com/deadbeats). In addition, Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) received federal certification of the Key Information Delivery System (KIDS), the main computer for the child support process.
• New Hire Initiative. In Illinois, 80 percent of child support is collected through wage withholdings, a method facilitated by the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s New Hire Directory. This year, the Blagojevich administration made it easier for employers to comply with the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s New Hire Directory by establishing a toll-free hotline to get information and clarification about the law, and developed easy-to-understand marketing materials that assisted in the employer education process. HFS also provided onsite training at employer sites and association meetings.
• The Sheridan Rehabilitation Project. The Sheridan Rehabilitation Project within the Illinois Department of Corrections helps ex-offenders access jobs and training programs so that they can meet their child support obligations. According to the Center for Law and Social Policy, roughly one-quarter of U.S. inmates have open child support cases. Incarcerated non-custodial parents owe in the range of $225 to $313 per month in child support. On average, parents owe more than $10,000 in arrears when they got to prison and leave prison owing $23,000 or more.
These initiatives and resulting success earned the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) a $7 million federal bonus award for meeting federal child support indicators, the largest incentive ever received by Illinois under a performance based system.
Mary Marquette, an Illinois parent who has collected child support and was present at the bill signing, said she has benefited from Illinois’ innovative collection programs.
“The passport program is a really great tool, and more states should adopt the program because it is fail-safe - if the person who owes child support wants to travel, they need to pay their child support,” she said.
To continue Illinois’ recent success and further strengthen child support enforcement, the Governor signed four pieces of legislation today:
· Making the child support process more efficient: Sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Soto (D-Chicago) and Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), House Bill 785, makes child support collection more efficient by updating the process to reflect current practices. The law is effective January 1, 2006.
· Adding interest to unpaid alimony: Sponsored by Rep. Patricia Reid Lindner (R-Sugar Grove) and Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Highwood), Senate Bill 95, an initiative of the Illinois State Bar Association, provides that any new or existing order including any unallocated maintenance obligation (alimony) shall accrue simple interest at the rate of 9% per annum, just as child support obligations. This law is effective January 1, 2006.
· Improving ability to legally serve notices on non-custodial parents: Sponsored by Rep. Lovana Jones (D-Chicago) and Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), Senate Bill 955 improves the Department's ability to legally serve notices on non-custodial parents. This law is effective immediately.
· Making sure the family receives interest payments first: Sponsored by Rep. Patricia Reid Lindner (R-Sugar Grove) and Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest), Senate Bill 452 simplifies the calculation and distribution of interest on unpaid child support and ensures that collections of interest are paid to the family first. This law is effective January 1, 2006.
· Making payments easier through currency exchanges: Sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Soto (D-Chicago) and Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), HB 783 allows a non-custodial parent to give certain information to a currency exchange so that their child support payments can be made there, giving the non-custodial parent more access to places where they can make payments.
“This new legislation provides a fair and equitable way to help ensure women receive their divorce maintenance payments on time,” said Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Highwood).
“For many low-income families, child support payments can mean the difference between living comfortably and falling into poverty,” said Rep. Cynthia Soto (D- Chicago). “These new laws will help families collect the money they need to stay afloat.”