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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Stimulus checks boost child support collections

Davidson County has joined the rest of the state in witnessing a jump in child support collections primarily because of payments from stimulus packages intended to boost the nation's economy, according to the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

During July, $5.1 million was collected in child support, up 11 percent from the same period last year in Nashville.

Judicial districts statewide collected a record-setting $530 million in child support for the last fiscal year, up from $508 million the previous fiscal year.

Of the state's collections, nearly $24 million came from economic stimulus payments, according to DHS.

Stimulus payments are diverted to child support if a parent is at least $500 behind on child support.

"It's been a really wonderful benefit to children and families of the state relying on child support," said Michelle Mowery Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services.

An intercept program allows DHS to divert economic stimulus payments, lottery winnings and tax refunds toward child support.

"This is helping to pay for the daily necessities the rent, the groceries, the mortgage, the new school shoes," Johnson said.

The stimulus payments provide short-term relief, and DHS officials said they expect the numbers to drop next month.

Davidson County performs better than many others in the state but is being included in a cluster that is targeted for performance improvement.

The county was one of four in the state that showed a slight dip in collection payments in the last fiscal year.

"I think last year was harder than most as far as the economy and the things that affect the collections for child support," said Charles Bryson, director of field operations for child support at DHS.

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