The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Deeds: Collect child support; B2

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Virginia’s youths are owed more than $2 billion in back child support, and the next attorney general should do something about it, according to one candidate for the office.

State Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, said Thursday that he’d make collecting back support a priority for his office. Deeds is running against Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, to be the state’s next top lawyer.

A big part of that is finding more resources for the Department of Child Support Enforcement, Deed said.

“That agency, which does a wonderful job, is overworked and under-resourced,” he said. Virginia needs to “reinforce the troops we have,” he said.

There are some 480,000 children in Virginia owed child support, according to the agency.

It’s also important for taxpayers, Deeds said. Some 40 percent of non-custodial parents are unemployed, but custodial parents who get as little as $100 per month are three times less likely to need help from the public safety net.

“Virginia must close the child support gap,” said Deeds. To that end, the candidate said he’d work to get the General Assembly to institute new punishment options for parents who don’t pay.

Sending all deadbeats to jail is counterproductive, he said. Judges need more alternatives.

“If they go to jail, they’re not going to pay a huge chunk of money,” Deeds said.

Alternatives “might include weekend incarceration, day reporting centers, electronic monitoring, or other options that would allow them to continue working and supporting their children,” he said.

He also proposed reworking current state agreements with private collection agencies to get more money for children, as well as seeking out federal funds to pay for more law enforcement officers to assist in collections.

In the interim, a Child Support Replacement Fund, paid with fees from inmates serving weekend sentences, would generate some money that could be routed to families in need.

“Capitalization of this fund would not be easy,” he said. But “I think we have to take steps right now to decrease this $2 billion gap.”

“I would anticipate that we’d be able to raise a few hundred thousand dollars” through fees, he said.

“Maybe you almost have to look at means-testing to determine the neediest families,” he said. But “I honestly think we can make a difference with just a few hundred thousand dollars.”

As delinquent child support payments are collected, the fund will be paid back, saving the state the burden of providing public assistance.

Del. Brian Moran, D-Alexandria, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said he backs Deeds’ proposal in part for its fiscal sense.

Taxpayers “end up paying the bill that fathers should be paying,” he said.

“A lot of these dads don’t have jobs,” so threatening them with “pay or go to jail” is like “trying to get money out of a stone.”

Even something as simple as a resolution from the General Assembly urging judges to seek other options might help, he said.

“Under the current scrutiny our judges are receiving,” that kind of activism is discouraged, he said.