Saving child support services

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors threw its support
behind a $98.5 million measure to save funding for local child
support services.
The San Benito County Board of Supervisors threw its support behind a $98.5 million measure to save funding for local child support services.

With a 5-0 vote Tuesday, supervisors joined dozens of counties throughout the state in supporting Senate Bill 1070 to avert what they fear could hurt local child support services.

“If the bill does not pass, we would either have to reduce the services offered through child support services or supply money from the county’s general fund,” County Administrative Officer Gil Solorio said.

SB 1070 would force the state to pay $98.5 million in penalties to prevent the federal government from eliminating millions of dollars in grants to the state that are earmarked for child support services.

How big an impact the loss of funding would have on local services is still uncertain.

Offcials with the Santa Cruz–San Benito Regional Department of Child Support Services are optimistic about SB 1070 passing, but are already making preparations in the event that it does not.

“It will have a significant impact and we are working on strategies to deal with this as best we can,” spokeswoman Lisa Todd said.

The problem began in 1998 when the federal government offered California, along with other states, to put into place a statewide child support computer system.

The state, however, failed to meet the deadline because when its purchasing agent bought computers for each of the child support service agencies, they were incompatible with the software that the program was supposed to run.

The state never made the federal deadline and was penalized in installments of $98.5 million.

“Although the penalty installment is owed to the federal government, the state has thus far withheld funding for payment due to ongoing fiscal budget problems,” Solorio said. “A failure to pay the penalties will trigger an immediate $98.5 million reduction in federal grant dollars allocated to the state Department of Child Support Services.

“If the reduction occurs, the state Department of Child Support Services will have no choice but to reduce monthly allocations to the local Department of Child Support Services.”

Solorio said that under such a scenario, the local Child Support Services will be forced to turn to the Board of Supervisors for short-term assistance in order to maintain current levels of public service.

In an effort to prevent a loss of child support revenue, supervisors adopted the resolution to send the letter supporting Senate Bill 1070, which will allocate $98.5 million for payment of the penalty installment.

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors recently adopted a similar resolution and letter, Solorio said.

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