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State Lawmakers Look To Privatize Child Support Collection

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 12 Feb 2013 06:36pm | comments

The Mississippi legislature is moving toward letting the Department of Human Services hire private companies to collect back child support payments. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports this is the second time the state could attempt to privatize child support collections.

In 2012, there was nearly 3-million dollars in unpaid child support payments in Mississippi.

Some state lawmakers want to let the Department of Human Services hire outside companies to find deadbeat dads and moms and collect that money.

Representative Carolyn Crawford of Pass Christian defended the bill on the floor of the house Tuesday as a necessary way to collect.

"I don't think we can wait. We have got some stats that says we have got over 1-billion dollars of uncollected child support money. I don't think we can tell these custodial parents that we can wait any longer. I think they have been waiting long enough," Crawford said.

But for some lawmakers, the bill is similar to an attempt in the mid-to-late 1990's to privatize child support payments using a company called Maximus.

Representative Omera Scott of Laurel says the private company on average collected less money at a higher cost than the DHS during the same time frame.

"We have been down this road before with child support and it took money, it took resources, and it was not productive," Scott said.

One thing both sides agree on is that the DHS is understaffed and over-worked....This is Democratic Representative Steve Holland of Plantersville and Republican Jeff Scott of Columbus.

They disagree over whether child support payments should be privatized.

"Do you know that when a DHS attorney goes to court they take a computer because they have to do their own typing? How bizarre, how bizarre," Holland said.

"Do you know any lawyer that would take a job, unless they are fresh out of law school, for 43-thousand dollars a year and have a case load of 35-hundred cases?" Scott said.

A similar measure passed the Senate 35-16 last week.

The two chambers would have to agree on a single bill before anything could go to the governor.

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