KY child support agencies on ‘life support’ hope not to lose federal funds

Governor Beshear is trying to help the state recover from its backlog of overdue child support.
Updated: Jan. 29, 2020 at 9:46 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear was blunt during his first budget address.

He claimed that state child support enforcement was on the brink of losing millions of dollars in federal match funds, at a time when county attorneys are on 'life support' working to make sure deadbeat parents pitch in to raise their children.

His budget proposal devotes $13 million to that cause over the next two years.

Amanda Mills was once a single mother, she said she’s fought to get child support money owed to her before.

"There's a lot of loopholes, a lot of running around," Mills said. "It just gets frustrating."

She argues the system doesn’t exactly have glowing reviews.

"The biggest frustration was I had to miss work myself as a single mother," Mills said. "So, I was missing not only my hourly rate, but I was actually taking a chance on losing my job."

Beshear’s Budget Address Tuesday hinted at why some claim enforcement divisions across the state may be facing challenges.

"Because of chronic under-funding over the past several years, child support collection is on the brink of losing federal funds," Beshear said. "Our county attorneys are on life support on their collection efforts."

He said, to prevent a $26 million loss in federal dollars for enforcement, his proposal would devote $13 million to the cause over the next two years.

Those at the Jefferson County Attorney's Office said they're less impacted by reduced funds than some other counties, but, as the commonwealths largest child support division, the last two fiscal years have been tough.

“Child support has seen a reduction of $9.4 million, which you can imagine, throughout the state, has had a dramatic impact,” Diane Fleming, the Director of the Jefferson County Child Support Division, said. Fleming said that’s a decrease of about 16 percent of statewide funding.

She said County Attorney Mike O'Connell was among those pushing for extra funds as the governor developed his budget.

O'Connell's office has seen around a $300,000 decrease in funds between fiscal years 2018 and 2020, as 56,000 child support cases remain open.

"We're pretty bare bones when it comes to administrative," Fleming said. "And, our vacancies, we've had to hold onto the past couple years, not filling positions."

Beshear said the move will give children needed resources. Mills said, as a mom, she understands that completely.

"That $200 to $300 a month, at that time, was important," Mills said.

Mills is also a homeless outreach worker, who founded an organization called Southend Street Angels.

She said owed child support payments can be vital for people on the brink of homelessness.

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