Saturday, April 21, 2001

Child-support payments have Ohio stumped

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The state said Friday it will be harder than first thought to determine how much parents are owed in illegally withheld child-support payments.

        “We're trying to figure out the fairest and most equitable way to take care of this issue, but we have to partner with counties and the federal government to do this,” said Mary Anne Sharkey, spokeswoman for Gov. Bob Taft.

        The state still intends to make the repayments, she said.

        The controversy focuses on the policy of Ohio and many other states to pocket the payments as reimbursement for welfare assistance. The federal government outlawed the practice under its 1996 welfare-reform law, but Ohio failed to comply.

        The state has acknowledged that it withheld about $6 million in payments from noncustodial parents. The Association for Children for Enforcement of Support, which has sued over the lost payments, places the total closer to $13 million.

        Ms. Sharkey said it could cost $18 million just to reconstruct records from Ohio's 88 counties.

        The state is considering several options, such as asking families to produce whatever records they have, or a flat-fee reimbursement for each family.

        “One possibility clearly is to ask families to bring in their records; but we're not certain that families would have the best records either, and it might be burdensome on them to try to re-enact these payments themselves,” Ms. Sharkey said.


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