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Feds: Idaho has 60 days to fix child-support law or lose access to enforcement system, $$

Idaho Health & Welfare officials had a conference call this morning Commissioner Vicki Turetsky of the U.S. Office of Child Support and Enforcement, to find out how things will play out now that the Idaho Legislature has killed SB 1067, the child support enforcement bill. “She will send us a letter, we will probably receive it on Friday,” said Tom Shanahan, H&W spokesman. “It will basically give us 60 days to bring our program back in compliance, or at the end of the 60 days, they will stop the federal funding and access to the federal tools, the databases and the programs we use.”

That would mean the immediate loss of $16 million in federal funds, two-thirds of Idaho’s child support enforcement budget; loss of access to the federal system to enforce $200 million a year in payments from non-custodial parents to Idaho children; and layoffs of about 100 state employees. Then, once that’s occurred, the state’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF program, would come under similar scrutiny, as that welfare-payments program relies on compliance with child support enforcement.

“Basically what they told us is there’s no turning back, as far as the feds really can’t do anything,” Shanahan said. “They’re proscribed by law once we’re not in compliance.”

Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong informed the governor’s office after the conference call. “Any strategy will be with the governor’s office as far as how to fix this,” Shanahan said. “I know a lot of people are talking special session; I don’t know if that’s in the works or not. That would be a governor’s office thing.”

During the conference call, Turetsky also told Idaho officials that her office had polled all the other states whose legislatures had not yet completed approval of the legislation, which brings states in compliance with federal regulations, including a 2007 international treaty. Roughly 19 already have passed it; the rest whose legislatures still are in session or will be in session were polled. “And they said that they didn’t see a problem in any other state,” Shanahan said. “They expect to have everybody on board this year.”

Jon Hanian, Gov. Butch Otter’s spokesman, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment; he said this morning that Otter likely will address the issue at his post-legislative session press conference. The office just announced that that will take place Thursday at 10 a.m.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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