The Nebraska Child Support Payment Center is celebrating its 10th anniversary Wednesday, not with fanfare but with a sense of satisfaction that thousands of children are receiving the financial support they need and deserve.
“While the Nebraska Child Support Payment Center has received and paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in child support over the past 10 years, the focus of this anniversary is clearly on the children,” said State Treasurer Don Stenberg. “Nebraska’s centralized collection and distribution system has been a leader in adapting technology to make it possible for child support payments to be received and distributed in a secure, convenient, and efficient fashion for the benefit of children in Nebraska and other states.”
The center, located at 233 S. 10th St., began operations Dec. 21, 2001, in compliance with a 1996 federal law that required states to establish state disbursement units for child support. It disbursed the first payment on Dec. 26, 2001. The center became a division of the State Treasurer’s Office in 2000, based on an interagency agreement between the Treasurer’s Office and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Laws passed by the Legislature in 1999 and 2000 laid the foundation for the centralized system. Before then, child support payments were collected and distributed by district court clerks throughout the state.
‘Strong, successful partnership’
“We have a strong and successful partnership with the Treasurer’s Office,” said Kerry Winterer, CEO of the Department of Health and Human Services. “It’s important to remember that when an adult relationship ends, the parenting relationship continues. The Department’s priority is to make every effort to collect child support owed to Nebraska children and families. Child support helps prevent poverty; the more parents financially support their children, the less government has to. Over the past 10 years, the DHHS Child Support Enforcement Unit has increased collections by 29 percent, collecting $209,931,008 last year for Nebraska children and families.”
“The Nebraska Child Support Payment Center has been at the forefront of adapting technology to improve the efficiency and security, as well as to lower the cost, of receiving and disbursing child support payments,” Treasurer Stenberg said. “Significant efforts have been made over the decade to encourage non-custodial parents to submit payments electronically or through their employers and to encourage custodial parents to receive payments electronically as well, reducing the expense of paper, printing, and postage.”
Earlier this year, the center was recognized by the Hudson Institute of Washington, D.C., for using prepaid debit cards to distribute child support payments to custodial parents. More than 97 percent of all disbursements to custodial parents are done electronically by direct deposit or prepaid debit cards, reducing costs for the state and speeding up payments to children and families. Nebraska is ranked in the top ten centers in the country for its use of electronic receipt and disbursement practices, including notifications to custodial and non-custodial parents by email and text messages.
As a result of the center’s electronic payments initiative introduced in 2004, more than $360,000 a year is saved by the electronic distribution of payments and a reduction in the number of checks printed and mailed to custodial parents, even though the number of payments has increased. Treasurer Stenberg announced earlier this year that the center would discontinue mailing paper statements to non-custodial parents whose employers remit child support payments, saving yet another $200,000 a year in state and federal tax dollars.
The center also is the first child support payment center in the United States to offer Secure Vault Payments, an optional way of making online payments in which the non-custodial parent is not required to share confidential bank information with the state, nor pay convenience fees. The option is good for the state, too, because funds are verified and secured at the time of the transaction, avoiding problems associated with insufficient fund checks, stop-pay notices, or other returns on bank accounts.
“The relationship between the Treasurer’s Office and the Department of Health and Human Services is very much a partnership in which improvements have been the focus of both agencies,” said Troy Reiners, director of the center. “DHHS over the years has continually implemented changes brought on by the federal program, and the center has been focused on technological improvements to provide more and better services with fewer tax dollars.”
Among the technological improvements at the center are two OPEX scanners, installed in 2010, that open, scan, and sort paper checks.
Customer service in Lincoln and Wausa
Another strength of the Child Support Payment Center is its customer service. Customer service representatives answer questions and provide assistance about receipt and disbursement at the payment center in Lincoln. The center prides itself on seeing to it no caller is on hold for more than one minute. Child support enforcement inquiries are answered at the Child Support Customer Service Call Center in Wausa, Neb., which is managed by YoungWilliams CSS in a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services.
The following numbers further tell the story of the Nebraska Child Support Payment Center: