Child support payback reform gets new life in proposed state budget

In Summary

The changes, if implemented, would boost the amount families on public assistance receive in monthly child support payments beginning in 2022.

After vetoing a bill to reform the state’s child support payback system, Gov. Gavin Newsom has revived efforts to give families on public assistance a greater share of their support payments in his proposed 2020-21 budget.

The changes, which if implemented would go into effect January 2022, would provide funding to boost the amount families on public assistance receive in monthly child support payments and eliminate debt on support payments that the state determines cannot be collected. 

Supporters say the additional funds would provide much-needed support to low-income families who are disproportionately affected by the existing policies.

Under California law, families receiving public benefits get only the first $50 of their monthly child support payments even if the noncustodial parent pays hundreds more every month. The remainder is sent to the government as reimbursement for the cost of state-provided social services.

Newsom’s proposed budget would increase the amount of child support payments families using public assistance receive from $50 to $100 for those with one child and to $200 for those with two or more children.

If implemented, the change would provide an estimated $34 million to approximately 160,000 families using public assistance, according to the budget summary,

Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, initially proposed the increase in SB337, but Newsom vetoed the bill in October, saying it would cost millions annually and should instead be considered as part of the budget process.

“I applaud Gov. Newsom’s decision to implement my legislation from last year through his budget proposal in order to help low-income parents and caregivers,” Skinner said in a statement.

Erica Hellerstein is a journalist with the Mercury News. This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.

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