Questions and Answers about State Child Support Computers
Oct 01, 1997 | Vicki Turetsky
How many states are certified?
17 states child support systems are federally certified, according to HHS.1
Together, these states cover only 19% of the IV-D caseload:
What is the HHS review process for certification? HHS does not routinely inspect state systems during development, but only conducts an on-site review upon the state's request. When a state requests certification, HHS (through its Office of State Systems) conducts a two-level certification review. A "Level 1" review is conducted at the pilot stage to determine whether the computer can perform all of the required functions. A "Level 2" review is conducted to determine whether the computer has been implemented statewide. A successful Level 2 review results in certification.
How many states are in the certification review pipeline? As of October 1, 1997, 10 additional states and territories have submitted requests for certification reviews:2
- 6 states and territories are waiting for Level 2 review results (Alabama, Guam, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island )
- 4 additional states have had Level 1 reviews (Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee).
Shouldn't there be more states in the review pipeline? It is very disturbing that there are not more states in the review pipeline. A substantial number of states appear to be bypassing separate Level I reviews, and instead are submitting combined Levels 1 and 2 review requests. However, without an early Level 1 review, any problem in the system's functioning will not be discovered by HHS at the pilot phase, but instead will continue into the statewide implementation phase.
Even if more states submit certification requests just before the deadline, it is likely that it will take HHS months to make the certification rounds. There is no guarantee that those states standing in line for post-deadline reviews will obtain certification on their first try.
How many states are likely to be "certifiable" by the deadline? While it is unclear how many systems will be fully operational near the deadline, many of the largest county-run state programs have troubled systems.3 These large states have the largest impact on families needing child support services. According to an Inspector General survey conducted last fall, 16 states were lagging far behind in the development process, and had not yet reached the implementation phase.4 Those states that have not reached the implementation phase are particularly at risk. Last spring, the GAO reported that as many as 14 states -- representing 44 percent of the nation's child support caseload --were unlikely to meet the deadline.5 HHS reported to the Washington Post on September 29, 1997 that 9 states -- California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia -- are the furthest behind.
What is the sanction for missing the deadline? States that fail to meet the deadline are subject to full revocation of their federal child support funds. State TANF block grant funds also are in jeopardy. States are required to operate a certified child support system in order to have an approved child support state plan. They must operate a child support program that meets IV-D federal requirements in order to have an approved TANF state plan. To avoid a IV-D plan disapproval action, states must to submit a state plan amendment that states that they have a certified computer by the end of the quarter (December 31, 1997).
How much have states spent on child support systems since 1981? By 1996, states have spent about $2.7 billion in federal and state dollars. This amounts to about $1.2 billion at the enhanced matching rate for statewide systems and about $1.5 billion at the regular rate for computer expenditures not qualifying for enhanced funding.
How much have states spent on child support systems since 1988? States have spent $2 billion since 1988. This includes $1 billion in federal and state dollars on statewide system costs qualifying for enhanced 90 percent federal funding and $1 billion at the regular rate.6
How much has the federal government spent? The federal government has spent $2 billion since 1981 and $1.5 billion since 1988. Most of the federal spending has been in 90 percent matching funds. In 90 percent funding, the federal government has paid $1 billion since 1981, nearly all of it ($900 million) since 1988. Federal computer spending jumped by 78 percent between 1994 and 1995.
What proportion of IV-D program funding is used to pay for computers? Between 1988 and 1995, 12.5 percent of IV-D program expenditures (and 14 percent of federal IV-D expenditures) went toward computers. In 1995, 20 percent of IV-D program expenditures (and 23 percent of federal IV-D expenditures) went toward computers.
What federal funding has been available for state child support computers? Until enactment of the Personal Responsibility Act, two types of funding have been available to states for computers:
- Enhanced federal funding was available to states for planning, developing, and installing statewide automated systems that met the certification requirements of the Social Security Disability Amendments of 1980 and the Family Support Act of 1988. If the system was approved for enhanced federal funding, the state could claim 90 percent federal reimbursement for expenditures. In order to qualify for enhanced federal funding, states are required to submit advance planning documents (APD) every year to HHS.7
- Federal funding at the regular matching rate was available to states for: (1) the costs of state and local child support systems that did not meet certification criteria, and (2) the operating costs of certified systems.8 Under the regular matching rate, the federal government currently pays 66 percent of computer expenditures and the state pays 34 percent.
Under the Personal Responsibility Act, 90 percent funding is no longer available for new systems costs. In order to receive 90 percent funding, states had to submit the amount in an advance planning document submitted by September 30, 1995. Thereafter, statewide systems costs, including those to meet new requirements under the Act, are eligible for 80 percent funding, capped at $400 million for fiscal years 1996 through 2001.
1. While some state systems have received unconditional certifications, most have been conditionally certified. A state may be conditionally certified if, for example, the state=s automated system does not meet federal guidelines for interstate telecommunications or electronic funds transfer.
2. Source: http:\\www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/oss/afcars/cse-sched.htm (updated July 15, 1997).
3. The ten states with the largest IV-D caseloads are California, Michigan, New York, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Texas, Illinois and Tennessee. These ten states include 57 percent of the national IV-D caseload.
4. Two states were in the design phase, 3 in the programming, 9 in the testing, and 2 in conversion. According to the GAO, conversion is widely seen as a major hurtle to certification.
5. GAO, Child Support Enforcement: Strong Leadership Required to Maximize Benefits of Automated Systems, GAO/AIMD-97-72 (July 1997).
6. State-by-state charts are available from CLASP upon request.
7. 42 U.S.C. ''652(d) and 654(16).
8. 45 C.F.R. '307.35.