The Crusader Newspaper Group

Why forcing food stamp participants to receive child-support services is a bad idea

By Vicki Turetsky,

Congress will soon consider a proposal to require parents applying for food assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to participate in the federally supervised, state-administered child-support-enforcement program. This would risk reducing food assistance for households with children and raise state and federal administrative costs, with little payoff in increased child-support collections.

As the former federal official overseeing the child-support program, I’ve spent my career working to strengthen it. We’ve made considerable progress in ensuring that more noncustodial parents fulfill their financial responsibilities to their children. However, state experience shows that this proposal would take us backward.

States already have the option to require parents to cooperate with the child-support program to receive SNAP benefits — popularly known as food stamps — but only six states do. This is largely because the policy is very expensive to implement but unlikely to boost child-support collections significantly. Seven of the 10 states that initially adopted the option rescinded it when it failed to be cost-effective, a 2014 study commissioned by the Utah legislature found.


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