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Maryland may release staff following child support news

The Maryland Department of Human Resources may fire employees responsible for failing to properly collect and monitor benefits for poor citizens, according to an announcement by the DHR secretary in Annapolis. An official with the department explained that he is willing to replace members of his staff in order to correct the problems.

DHR recently came under attack for poorly enforcing child support payments, leaving many parents without money with which to care for their children. DHR's secretary explained that the agency is undertaking several initiatives aimed at correcting deficiencies revealed by a series of audits that showed the state failed to record whether prospective foster parents have histories of child abuse, overpays benefits and under-collects child support. Maryland was fined $423,563 by the federal government in 2010 after its food stamp program was deemed to be unsatisfactory.

Some individuals are calling for collections to be undertaken by private contractors, but one legislator explained that such systems work poorly, citing Baltimore as an example. The city paid a private contractor $7.7 million in 2010 to collect delinquent child support payments, but the contractor reportedly failed to reach the city's goals.

A state senator questioned whether current laws do an adequate job of helping DHR correct its deficiencies. Auditors with the Department of Legislative Services responded that DHR has several powerful collection tools, but does not make proper use of them. The auditors found that the state could have collected $1.72 billion in child support payments if the state refined its policy on garnishing bank accounts. Currently, accounts are not garnished if the amount owed is between $500 and $2,500. DHR has announced plans to change its policy, garnishing funds on any payments of more than $500.

Source: hometownannapolis.com, "State may fire child-support staffers," Earl Kelly, Sept. 21, 2011

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