Isle child agencies get $5M in seized checks
Collections across the U.S. hit $831 million
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Deadbeat dads and moms around the country are discovering that their economic stimulus checks from Washington, D.C. - intended to encourage the purchase of TVs, cars and other goods - are being intercepted and funneled toward the support of their children.
Treasury Department figures show that more than 1.4 million of the checks have been seized since the payments began last spring, and a total of $831 million has been collected by child support agencies nationwide.
In Hawaii, there are 8,133 people so far whose checks, totaling $5.4 million, were diverted to the state Child Support Enforcement Agency.
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A word of advice to deadbeat dads and moms: Your economic stimulus check from the federal government is not in the mail.
Checks for 8,133 people in Hawaii were intercepted and the $5.4 million total collected as of Aug. 15 will be diverted toward support of their children.
Garry Kemp, administrator of the state Child Support Enforcement Agency, said most of the money will go to the custodial parents.
Treasury Department figures obtained by the Associated Press show that more than 1.4 million of the checks have been seized since the payments began last spring, and a total of $831 million has been collected by child support agencies nationwide.
Kemp said the interception program is similar to the ongoing diversion of income tax refunds.
"It's a type of lien action," he said. "If they owe $150 or more to the state or $500 or more to a custodial parent, and are delinquent more than a month, that's when we seek the money." The state is owed reimbursement if a child receives welfare assistance or is in foster care.
"This will significantly add to our collections," Kemp said. The enforcement agency collected $122 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, up from $113 million collected the previous year. The state goes after paychecks and other income of delinquent parents.
"Most of the time the money goes first to the custodial parent, except in a tax intercept, the state gets satisfied first," Kemp said. "I'm sure most of this went to custodial parents."
The stimulus program proposed by President Bush and approved by Congress provided $600 checks for most individuals and $1,200 for couples filing jointly, with a $300 per-child credit added on.
States submit the names and Social Security numbers of deadbeat parents to the IRS, which cross-checks those names against the lists of taxpayers receiving stimulus checks. The IRS then sends the deadbeat parents' checks straight to state child support agencies.
In California, $97.9 million was collected via 152,877 diverted checks, while Texas brought in $80.3 million from 132,144 payments.
The diverted ones are just a fraction of the more than 112 million stimulus checks issued as of the start of July. So far, the IRS has dispensed checks totaling $92 billion. It will continue processing tax returns and issuing stimulus checks for much of the year.
Ned Holstein, founder of Fathers and Families, a Boston-based organization that supports the rights of fathers, said the seizing of economic stimulus checks ignores the fact that most fathers who owe child support are earning little.
"We're trying to support very poor people, the mothers and children, from the pocketbooks of other very poor people," he said. "There are those who are just downright avoiding their child-support payments, but there are many more who just can't make their payments."
Star-Bulletin reporter Mary Adamski and the Associated Press contributed to this report.