Bill to Cut Food Stamps if Late Child Support Payments

Republicans Propose Bill to Cut Food Stamp Benefits if Child Support Payments are Late

A Wisconsin legislator has proposed a controversial bill: if child support payments are missed, the parent would lose food stamp benefits. The lawmaker argued that the bill would strengthen families. However, opponents want to see evidence that the proposed bill would actually benefit families.

Representative Joe Sanfelippo stated, “This bill makes sure that somebody’s standing behind me saying, ‘You brought a child into this world, you need to own up to your responsibility of caring for that child.’” Sanfelippo co-authored the bill with Republican Senator Chris Kapenga.

The bill states that parents who do not acknowledge paternity or who are late on child support payments for more than three months will lose eligibility for FoodShare benefits. FoodShare is a federal program for low-income households. The new bill is much like a provision that was state law until 2007.

Last year, approximately 75 percent of child support payments were paid on time. Roughly 70 percent of late payments were eventually collected, Kapenga noted. The bill will not apply to parents who have alternative payment plans with the court system.

However, Democratic members on the Committee on Public Benefit Reform pushed back, seeking more details on the proposal’s cost and effectiveness.

Democratic Representative Lisa Subeck said, “I want to see evidence that when this requirement was in place, it actually helped collections. It’s a big investment for what may or may not be effective.”

An estimate from the state Department of Children and Families puts the cost of information technology updates to support the bill at around $412,500. Sanfelippo commented, “If this move results in noncustodial parents who are not involved in their child’s life becoming involved in their child’s life, you can’t put a price tag on that.”

Jim Sullivan, Milwaukee County Child Support Services Director, said that collections in that county improved both before and after the law changed in 2007. Sullivan commented that removing parents’ benefits would make it more difficult for them to make child support payments. In addition, it would make it more difficult for some parents to have food in the house when children visit. Sullivan added that Wisconsin is ranked second in the country for successful child support collections.

So far, more than 20 Republicans have co-sponsored the bill. Governor Scott Walker included a similar feature in the budget. Wisconsin Family Action, an organization that promotes marriage between one man and one woman and also supports anti-abortion measures, has also praised the bill.

Julaine Appling, the president of the group, said that the bill, especially its paternity requirement, addresses Wisconsin’s “epidemic of fatherlessness” by demanding action from uninvolved parents. Appling commented, “When we keep giving benefits and letting them off the hook, we really do reinforce the cycle of poverty.”

However, Matt Striensra, a lobbyist for Hunger Task Force, noted that even hardworking parents could fall behind. “A late child support payment for three months doesn’t always mean that the parent doesn’t love or spend time with their child.”

Hunger Task Force, which operates a food bank and other anti-hunger programs, opposes the bill. The National Association of Social Workers and the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Family Law and Public Interest Law sections also oppose it.

If you need assistance with child support, custody, or visitation, contact our family law attorneys today for a free consultation

At Bandle & Zaeske, our Wisconsin family law attorneys have assisted parents with child support, custody, and visitation matters. We offer a free consultation for your convenience. To schedule your free consultation, call 414-359-1424 or contact us online.

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