NC - Lost Child-Support Checks Latest Problem in 'Streamlined New System' : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

[Fair use for education and research purpose only]

Thursday, April 13, 2000

Title: Child-Support Checks are Lost in the Mail

By Kim Nilsen Raleigh bureau

RALEIGH -- A batch of child-support checks has disappeared after being mailed last week from Cumberland County to the new processing site in Raleigh.

Parents have been left waiting for money.

The lost checks are the latest problem in what was supposed to be a streamlined new system. Its just a nightmare,' said Carol Utz, a Fayetteville woman whose $475 monthly child-support check seems to have been among those that disappeared.

State officials are looking into what went wrong, while the search for the missing payments continues.

The payments were drafted from the accounts of active-duty military people and military retirees. They were sent by a federal finance and accounting center to Fayetteville to the county clerk of court. That office processed child-support payments until last fall, when the state started the new system. All checks are now supposed to go directly to a central site in Raleigh that is run by a contractor hired by the state.

But the federal office handling those payments hasnt changed the address, so the checks are still going to Fayetteville. That extra step alone has been slowing the arrival of checks, said Shelia Dixon, a deputy clerk of court for Cumberland County.

For the first three months, workers from the clerks office drove to Raleigh to deliver the checks to the processing center.

In recent months, the staff has been coding the payments with needed information and mailing the batch -- on average between 400 and 500 payments -- to Raleigh. April payments were mailed last week.

This month, I have no idea whats happened to the checks, Dixon said. These women are livid.

While this is the first time under the new system that Utz has gone without a check, she says her payments have been arriving late each month since the contractor took over.

Congress called on states to streamline their systems. The centralized systems have worked well in some states, but the switch caused major delays in North Carolina, where processors had to scramble to figure out the destinations of more than 41,000 unidentifiable payments.

The state issued more than $2 million in emergency checks to parents to ease the delays. State officials and the contractor, Systems and Methods Inc., came under fire.

The state is looking into what caused the latest problem and trying to find the missing checks as quickly as possible.

Payments mailed by individuals to county court clerks offices are now returned to the sender with a letter explaining the new process, Dixon said. But workers in Cumberland County were directed to ship the batch from the federal agency to Raleigh instead. There is some question about whether the payers themselves need to make the address correction, rather than the federal agency making the change, Dixon said.

So far, the state hasnt heard of similar problems involving other military communities in North Carolina, said Martin Baird, an official with the state Child Support Services office.

Utz needs to pay tuition to her daughters private Christian school by April 15. She recently spent money for car repairs and for pictures and invitations for her daughters coming high school graduation.

Utz is married, but her husband has expenses for a child in college. Unfortunately, there are people that are not in my situation. They don't have anything to fall back on, she said.

Parents awaiting checks may be able to get relief through the state, Baird said. To find out about qualifying for an emergency check, call 1 (800) 992-9457 or (877) 531-1818.

(c) 2000 The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer


-- (, April 13, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ