Every state in the nation allows wage garnishment for child support, meaning employers can be asked to withhold a percentage of a deadbeat dad or mom's paycheck to go toward the care of their dependent children. But did you know that this year's Congressional stimulus payments can also be garnished for child support? An Associated Press investigation found that 1.4 million stimulus checks have been seized, raising $831 million for child support agencies.
But that doesn't mean all that money is directly supporting kids. The stimulus package garnishment process replicates a problem in many states: if the custodial parent and children are dependent on welfare, they never see some or even all of their child support. Instead, the state keeps the money, under the rationale that taxpayers must be "paid back" for the aid they are providing the family.
This is bad public policy for a few reasons. First, for the non-custodial parent, usually the father, it discourages work and child support payment. He knows the money he earns will be going into state coffers, not toward the well-being of his children. Second, the extra child support money on top of the welfare payments could provide important basic support to the children themselves, as well as to their mother, all of whom are likely suffering from sub par housing, nutrition, health care, child care….and the list goes on. The stabilizing force of regular income from the second parent could help some families break the cycle of dependence. And isn't it better for kids to be directly supported, at least in part, by a parent?
This seems like a reform around which liberals and "Grand New Party" conservatives could agree. Would be curious what Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam think…
cross-posted at TAPPED