JEFFERSON — Jefferson County is seeking additional financial assistance from the state as it faces growing demands for child support enforcement.
The county’s board of supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to request state funding for the Jefferson County child support enforcement program be increased by $5 million in general purpose revenue for each fiscal year of the 2023-25 Wisconsin state budget.
According to county officials, this will generate approximately $9.7 million in additional federal funding each year.
“This investment will ensure that Wisconsin counties can continue to effectively provide economic support to our children,” the resolution reads in part.
The resolution passed without discussion.
“The resolution adopted by the county board on Tuesday helps ensure that state elected officials are aware of how important it is for Jefferson County to have the economic resources it needs to continue to effectively administer its child support program,” said Jefferson County Corporation Counsel Blair Ward.
The Jefferson County Child Support Agency administers the child support enforcement program in Jefferson County on behalf of the State of Wisconsin, information from the county said.
“The program provides services to Jefferson County residents, which include child support and paternity establishment, enforcement of child support orders, establishment of health insurance orders for dependent children, and the enforcement and modification of these orders,” said county child support director Stacee Jensen.
State funding for county child support enforcement services has failed to keep up with county agency costs, which have steadily increased due to growing caseloads, inflation and new federal regulations, according to Jensen.
“This investment will ensure that Wisconsin counties can continue to effectively provide economic support to Wisconsin children,” Jensen said.
The money is needed, according to the resolution.
“Child support is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in the state, with county child support agencies serving approximately 347,000 children and collecting roughly $906 million in financial support for Wisconsin families in 2021,” the resolution reads in part. “Child support is proven to reduce childhood poverty rates, leads to better educational and behavioral outcomes for children, and has a positive effect on food security, health and housing stability.”
The agency uses the money to provide support on multiple fronts, Jensen said.
“This includes assistance with finding employment, referrals to other social service programs and amending support orders as appropriate for individuals impacted by substance use disorders or other challenges,” she said.
County agency costs have steadily increased due to a high number of caseloads per worker, increased complexity of cases, inflation and new regulations. An abrupt federal interpretation change in June 2019 eliminated $4.2 million in federal birth cost recovery matching funds for Wisconsin and Wisconsin’s strong performance in its child support enforcement program is at risk without additional funding, Jensen said.
“The state has already dropped from second in the nation for the collection of current support in 2016 to 6th in the nation in 2021,” she said. “Without additional state funds, county child support agencies may need to eliminate positions, further increase caseloads, or reduce services, further impacting federal performance measures, which would result in the loss of additional federal funds.”
Those most impacted by insufficient funding for child support enforcement are children and families served by county child support agencies who will need to seek out public assistance programming without the financial security provided by the child support enforcement program.
“State investments in the child support enforcement program are amplified by a generous federal match. Every $1 of state general purpose revenue invested in the child support enforcement program generates roughly $2 in federal matching funds,” Jensen said. “Wisconsin’s child support enforcement program is incredibly cost-effective, collecting an average of $6.43 in support for every dollar invested in the program.”
Officials will forward the resolution to Gov. Tony Evers, state senators and state representatives representing Jefferson County, the Wisconsin Department of Administration and the Wisconsin Counties Association.
Dodge County Director of Child Support Services Terra Mattheis is in the process of drafting a similar resolution for consideration by the Dodge County board.
“We had some federal funding we lost in 2019 and we never (recovered) from that,” Mattheis said. “I am hopeful something can come out of this. We have a great program and we do get the money out to the families that need it.”
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