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Davis Opening Statement: Hearing on No-Cost Improvements to Child Support Enforcement

March 20, 2012

Today we will review several no-cost ways to improve the nation’s child support enforcement program so more children benefit from child support. These changes should have broad bipartisan support, and hopefully can proceed to the House floor in the coming weeks.

The child support enforcement program was created in 1975 in order to reduce public expenditures on welfare.  By obtaining support from noncustodial parents on an ongoing basis and helping non-welfare families get support, more families could stay off public assistance.

Today, this State-administered program has grown to serve all families that request services and is estimated to handle 60 percent of all child support cases. It results in $26.6 billion in child support collections involving 15.9 million unique cases. To carry out this work, States and Territories receive over $4 billion annually in Federal administrative funds, which covers approximately two-thirds of the total cost of operating the system.

With the help of the experts who will testify today, we will review several no-cost ways to improve the child support enforcement program, increase child support collections, and better serve both families and taxpayers.  

One way to increase collections and ensure that more children living in the United States receive the financial support they deserve is through ratification of the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance. That’s a mouthful, but it really boils down to stepped up efforts to collect support when one parent lives outside of the U.S.  Before our subcommittee is the implementing legislation for the Hague Convention, which has bipartisan support, would have no cost for taxpayers, and is expected to increase collections in such cases.  That will both help more children and reduce the need for taxpayer support in the form of welfare checks.

Another way to increase collections is to continue the subcommittee’s bipartisan efforts to standardize data and improve the exchange of data within and across programs. The child support system already heavily relies on data exchanges.  But it is important for those efforts to be consistent with our data standardization progress involving child welfare, TANF and
unemployment programs so we can improve the overall efficiency of government programs.

Continuing on the data exchange theme, we will also consider an Administration proposal to allow researchers access to data in the National Directory of New Hires, a database maintained by the child support enforcement program.  This will help in evaluating whether employment programs are working as intended.  This is a classic example of what we hope will happen as we increase the exchange of data; we can use the data we already have in smarter ways to help evaluate and improve government programs so they work better for intended recipients and taxpayers alike.

We look forward to all of the testimony today.  And we also look forward to working with our colleagues to improve how this program serves the children and families who depend on it, as well as ensuring it efficiently and effectively uses taxpayer dollars.