In March 2013, the Federal government will stop issuing paper checks for benefits and will begin making all Social Security, Social Security Disability (SSD) and veteran's benefits payments electronically. The move to electronic payments is intended to save the government up to $1 billion over the next 10 years because it will no longer have to print and mail checks.
But the change could have some unintended and severe consequences for those who are behind on Georgia child support payments.
In order to collect child support, Georgia has the right to freeze the bank accounts of the person who owes back support. Some estimate that almost 275,000 people throughout the United States will see their monthly income cut in half as past-due child support is collected from the direct deposited government benefits.
"Child support enforcement - getting that money and passing it on to parents and children - is a measure to fight poverty, and it doesn't make sense to accomplish that by impoverishing somebody else," commented the Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Ken Wolfe.
Generally, those who owe large amounts of back child support are those who are least likely to be able to pay what's owed. Three-quarters of parents owing more than $30,000 in back child support had less than $10,000 in annual income. Some had lost jobs because of a disability or because of jail time, but overall, very few had the ability to pay back the debt.
While this may seem like good news to those who are owed child support, many expect that state governments will see the majority of payments from frozen accounts rather than the families themselves. Most states can chargeback welfare payments made for a child whose parent was not fully contributing to his or her support.