Beware!!! The U.S. Federal Government has once again gone on the attack. This time it has set its crosshairs on the backs of deadbeat, disabled dads all across the country.
Government policy has changed to now allow states to seize every penny of federal benefits from men who owe back child support. The previous law only allowed states to siphon sixty-five (65) percent of the benefits received per paper check. Now, it is estimated that 275,000 men could be left penniless due to the change.
A major concern centers around the Treasury Department’s decision to pay all benefits electronically beginning next year, including disability, Social Security and veterans’ benefits. A separate Treasury Department rule grants states the power to freeze the bank accounts of men and women who collect federal benefits and owe child support. With the seizure of the remaining thirty-five (35) percent of benefits, thousands of poor men could lose their only source of income.
In many of the cases, the bills are decades old and the children involved have reached adulthood. A great majority of the debt owed is based on interest and fees that accrued while the men were unable to pay because they were disabled, institutionalized, or in prison. What’s worse, most of the money will not even go toward the children of the men with child support debts. It will go to the government. States have been enabled to keep the money as a form of repayment for welfare previously given to those children.
The Draconian change shows how a politically desirable goal such as cracking down on deadbeat dads can result in counterproductive effects in practice. Disabled fathers will now be in foreclosure and unable to pay their bills due to states’ aggressive efforts to collect back child support. Fathers will now have the very real fear that they will face going to jail due to no ability to pay back the debts.
Who says debtor prisons are a thing of the past.
Some attorneys are advising their clients to collect their benefits while they can per paper check. This will allow them at least some cash to pay their bills. However, that option will terminate next March due to the Treasury Department depositing benefits directly into bank accounts or load them onto prepaid debit cards. Either way, the state child support agencies will have access to all of it.
As a result of the practice, government agencies are expected to save $1 billion over the next ten (10) years. Yet the dilemma will still remain: Do we prevent states from collecting child support debts versus the risk of impoverishing thousands of people by depriving them of their only source of income?