Kansas centralizing child support

Kansas officials hope that a centralized child support payment system slated

to go online Sept. 29 will simplify the process for families waiting for

benefits and for employers that have been ordered to withhold income.

The Kansas Payment Center will be operated by Walnut Creek, Calif.-based

Tier Technologies, said Jim Robertson, director of the state's Child Support

Enforcement agency. The company has a three-year contract to collect and

disburse payments. Robertson said the state will pay Tier per transaction

and wasn't sure how much will be paid out.

Currently, the district court clerks in all 105 state counties process

child support payments. Robertson said a large employer with income-withholding

orders for several employees would have to send checks and paperwork to

several different courts at different times.

The new system will enable them to send electronic funds transfers for

all the orders at one time during a pay period. Robertson said employers

could save up to $3 million from postage and check-handling costs.

Families waiting for payments may get them faster as well. Robertson

said the average turnaround is about three days, but the new system mandates

payment within two days.

The state collected about $146 million last year in child support payments,

Robertson said, adding that he expected the number to increase slightly.

The system also should help track payments and collect information to better

enforce court orders.

The state also established a 24-hour toll-free hotline so that people

making or receiving payments can check their status.

Robertson said a 1996 federal welfare reform law mandated the establishment

of a central payment center.

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