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Ways and Means Members Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Child Support Enforcement for States and Tribes

April 11, 2024 — Legislation    — Press Releases    — Work and Welfare   

This week, Ways and Means Republican Kevin Hern (R-OK) introduced legislation along with co-sponsors Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL), Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ), Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), and Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), called the Strengthening State and Tribal Child Support Enforcement Act, to avert changes in an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) enforcement action that would block state child support agencies from utilizing contractors for the Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program. Were they to take effect, these changes would greatly disrupt states’ ability to administer child support payments through the CSE program, which serves nearly 13 million families and 18 percent of all children in the U.S. The bill would also provide parity for Tribes operating child support enforcement programs.

Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) said:

The Child Support Enforcement program is a highly successful, cost-effective federal program that millions of families across the country rely upon each month. Unfortunately, a long history of stop-gap measures and a recent agency policy change at the IRS have set up a child support cliff that threatens the ability of states and tribes to administer this critical program. The Strengthening State and Tribal Child Support Enforcement Act will harmonize our federal laws so states can continue carrying out necessary enforcement and allow tribal child support programs to enjoy access to the same enforcement tools as their state counterparts.” 

Ways and Means Republican Kevin Hern (R-OK) said:

“Tribal families in Oklahoma and around the nation deserve the same assistance to recover unpaid child support payments as provided by non-tribal agencies. Congress should be in the business of strengthening families to ensure our children have a supportive environment to grow. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill with my colleagues!”

For decades, a conflict between the Social Security Act, which allows states to administer programs using contractors, and the Internal Revenue Code, which strictly limits contractors’ access to Federal Taxpayer Information (FTI), led the IRS to suspend enforcement action so states could administer the CSE program. However, starting October 1, 2024, the IRS will require states to discontinue use of contractors – and by extension, also limit tribal access – which could result in hundreds of millions in costs to states and the federal government and suspend child support payments to millions of families.

The bipartisan legislation would grant tribal child support program access to the same personally identifiable tax information as state child support agencies through the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program, and allow state and tribal support agencies to disclose taxpayer information to contractors to help them administer their child support programs while also maintaining existing security protocols to protect taxpayer information.

Read a one-pager on the bill here.

Read the bill text here.

Key Background

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program is a successful and vital support system for millions of families across the country.

  • The CSE program is one of the most cost-effective federal programs dedicated to establishing parentage and obtaining child support for custodial parents.
  • In 2022, the program collected more than $27 billion in payments from non-custodial parents. For every $1 spent nearly $5 was collected for families.
  • CSE serves 12.7 million families and 18 percent of all children in the U.S. Among all families eligible for child support, 24 percent have income below the federal poverty line.

Tribes need equitable access to the same enforcement tools as states.

  • Sixty federally-recognized Tribes administer their own CSE programs. Tribes have never had direct access to the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program to collect past-due support. Instead, Tribes have resorted to “contracting” with states to access the program.
  • As a result, the same IRS policy that will prohibit use of state contractors will simultaneously cut off Tribal access.
  • A permanent solution would also provide parity for Tribes to directly access the tools necessary for effective child support enforcement.

READ: “Huge Detriment to Every Family”: IRS Policy Change Puts Child Support Payments in Jeopardy