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Mississippi Must Stop Billing Incarcerated People For Child Support, MDHS Head Says

JACKSON, Miss.—Mississippi will no longer be able to run its child-support-enforcement program with federal funds if it continues to bill people who are incarcerated, Mississippi Department of Human Services Executive Director Bob Anderson warned the Mississippi Senate Appropriations Committee in a meeting on Jan. 10.

He said the State will lose about $35 million in federal matching funds to run the enforcement program if it does not pass Senate Bill 2082, which would end child-care payment billing for incarcerated people.

“Basically, we have to pass this legislation regarding incarceration,” Anderson said, explaining that the U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement adopted a rule “that says states cannot treat incarceration as voluntary unemployment and continue to participate in the federal child support enforcement program.”

“What it means for the (Mississippi) Department of Human Services is the potential loss of $35 million in federal matching funds if we don’t get this piece of legislation enacted this year,” he added. “However, if we don’t get this incarceration bill passed, it will impact 100% of our child support cases because (the federal government) may decide to pull our matching funding, and the formula is 66% federal, 34% state money; we could not operate the child-support enforcement program without that 66% of matching federal funds.”

“If we were to try to operate our child-support program without any federal funding, we would be looking for two-thirds of the funding from this body.”

The Mississippi Senate Appropriations Committee conducted a hearing for the Department of Human Services on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. Photo by Kayode Crown

Anderson said that with “well over” 300,000 families involved in the child-support program in the state, the bill will affect about 3,200 cases, or fewer than 2%. He said there is no way to pay the $20 million in yearly fees to YoungWilliams, a company the State contracted with in 2016 to provide child support services across the state, without the $35 million federal government grant.

In a 2017 rule, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services criticized states that treat incarceration as voluntary unemployment.

“Despite the significant research on the

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