Child Support Enforcement:

Opportunity To Defray Burgeoning Federal and State Non-AFDC Costs

HRD-92-91: Published: Jun 5, 1992. Publicly Released: Jun 5, 1992.

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GAO reviewed states' fee policies and practices for federal Child Support Enforcement Program services provided to clients who are not recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).

GAO found that: (1) the federal government and states share 66 percent and 34 percent of program costs and cost recoveries, respectively; (2) the non-AFDC child support program collected $4.3 billion in 1990, but recovered only about 3.5 percent of the total administrative cost of $644 million; (3) individual state recovery rates ranged from 0 to 48 percent; (4) most states charge minimal application fees, and few states charge optional fees for federal and state tax offsets to collect delinquent child support; (5) four states with higher recovery rates adopted programs to either recover costs from the support collected, charge a monthly service fee, or charge fees for specific enforcement-related services; (6) states with minimal fee policies cited maximization of non-AFDC clients' access to services and the lack of incentive for recovery; (7) between fiscal year (FY) 1984 and FY 1990, non-AFDC case loads rose 160 percent and administrative expenses increased 305 percent; (8) legislation increasing program services is likely to result in increased non-AFDC case loads and service costs; and (9) 1989 census data indicate that many non-AFDC child support clients are not in jeopardy of welfare dependency. GAO believes that: (1) alternatives for increasing cost recoveries for non-AFDC child support services include application, annual service, and income tax offset fees, but such fees should not be legally mandated; and (2) charging a percentage service fee for all collections and eliminating mandatory fees and optional offset fees could be the most appropriate alternative for financing non-AFDC child support services.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Because the recommendation in GAO/HEHS-99-105 encompasses this recommendation, GAO is closing this recommendation. GAO will continue to follow-up on the recommendation in HEHS-99-105.

    Matter: Because most states have opted to implement minimal fee policies and the federal government is bearing the lion's share of the unrecovered non-AFDC child support administrative costs, Congress should amend title IV-D of the Social Security Act to: (1) require states to charge a minimum percentage service fee for each successful child support collection; and (2) eliminate the mandatory non-AFDC child support application fee and optional federal and state tax offset fees.


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