Ohio child support system runs up against $16 million fine

Ohio child support system runs up against $16 million fine

Officials, IT workers and contractors at the Ohio Job and Family Services Department are working almost around the clock to stave off federal fines of up to $16 million. By Oct. 5 they must reprogram and test the statewide child support system.

By Oct. 1 last year, the system was supposed to meet the guidelines set forth in the 1996 Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, also known as the federal welfare reform act.

The fine, expected to be $7 million to $8 million, could run up to $16 million if the system does not meet guidelines by Monday, said Jon Allen, a department spokesman. If the overtime work does succeed in bringing the system up to par, Allen said, the state could see a 90 percent reduction of the penalty.

Programmers are recoding the IBM DB2 database, written in Cobol, to change the order in which the system disburses payments. Under the old rules, the state kept back payments of child support as reimbursement for welfare payments. Now the custodial parent receives the back payments first, and the state is reimbursed only after the custodial parent gets what is owed.

Allen said state workers will have four-hour shifts after regular business hours to get the reprogramming finished by Oct. 1. Then they will test the system for three or four days.

The federal government previously fined Ohio $43.4 million for missing a deadline of the Family Support Act of 1988 [see story at www.gcn.com/state/vol7_no5/news/1047-1.html]. The act required counties to use one system to track and make child support payments.

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