Our new report, released in collaboration with PolicyLink, The San Francisco Financial Justice Project, Tipping Point Community and Western Center on Law & Poverty, reveals that taking parents’ child support payments to pay back the cost of public assistance harms California’s low-income parents and children.
According to the report, The Payback Problem, inequitable public assistance payback policies take money away from children in poverty, set low-income parents up to fail, and discourage parents from making payments at all. The report also recommends reforms that have proven successful in other states.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of California children living in poverty do not receive all of the child support payments made by their parents. For low-income parents, most of their child support payments do not go to their children. Instead, the majority of their payments go to the government to pay back the cost of public assistance. In California, more than 70 percent of outstanding child support debt is owed to the government—not children.
Low-income parents should not be a source of revenue for our safety net. When families cannot pay they face punitive penalties including incarceration, suspension of driver’s licenses, and high-interest rates which balloon the debt they owe the government.
In addition, families of color are disproportionately impacted by public assistance payback policies. Due to persistent barriers to economic security, 85 percent of parents who owe child support are men of color and more than 75 percent of the children impacted by public assistance payback requirements are children of color.
There should be no price tag on our safety net for low-income families. Recent rules and reforms at the federal level encourage states to send more of parents’ child support payments through to their children. The report proposes reforms, many of which have proven successful in other states and are currently being put forward by members of the California Legislature.
Click here to download and read the full report (PDF).