During what is traditionally its busiest month of the year, the Nebraska Child Support Payment Center is celebrating its 15th anniversary, focused on its mission to receive and disburse child support payments timely and efficiently to custodial parents and children in Nebraska and across the United States.
In recognition of the upcoming 15th anniversary, Nebraska State Treasurer Don Stenberg praised current and former staff members for their flexibility, adaptability to change, and commitment to children and families.
“The Nebraska Child Support Payment Center has been at the forefront of adapting technology to improve efficiency and security and to lower the cost of receiving and disbursing child support payments,” said Treasurer Stenberg. He said the average cost to process one payment has dropped from $2.54 in 2002, the first full year of operation, to 96 cents today.
“Significant efforts have been made over the past 15 years 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, postage, and staff time, and ensuring that families receive the money to which they are entitled quickly and seamlessly,” he said.
Stenberg said greater reliance on the electronic transfer of money also has enabled the center to significantly reduce its workforce over the past 15 years. In 2001—when more than 85 percent of payments coming into the center were made by paper check—the center employed at least 60 staff members, working two shifts and supplemented at busy times with employees from other agencies. The staff now numbers 20.
That’s because today 78 percent of all child support payments are received electronically—compared with 14.4 percent in 2002—and 98 percent of all child support payments are distributed electronically—compared with 41 percent in the beginning.
To illustrate the payment center’s growth, Stenberg said total child support payments paid out to custodial parents in 2002 was more than $227 million. In 2016, the total paid out to custodial parents will exceed $311 million.
“We’re like No. 1 in the country in my book,” said Troy Reiners, the center’s director. “I don’t think you can find a better payment center than Nebraska. And that’s not just me. Ask other states or even the federal program. If they were asked to name the top payment centers in the country, we would definitely be in the top three to five.”
Reiners said Nebraska’s reputation is based on the center’s use of electronic receipts and payments and its overall efficiency.
“We go above and beyond for both the payers and the recipients of child support to what extent we are able to,” he said.
The center, located at 233 S. 10th St. in Lincoln, began operations Dec. 21, 2001, and disbursed its first payment to a custodial parent five days later. The center came about as the result of a 1996 federal law requiring states to establish state disbursement units for child support. Before then, child support payments were collected and disbursed by district court clerks. The center became a division of the State Treasurer’s Office in 2000 in an interagency agreement with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Sixty-six percent of the payment center’s budget comes from the federal government.
Stenberg said the center is continuing to innovate to better serve both the people who pay child support and the people who receive child support. Among the significant steps undertaken most recently by the center are the following:
Adding two free-standing U.S. Bank E-Payment Service Kiosks. The kiosks for making child support payments are located at the payment center at 233 S. 10th St. in Lincoln and in the entryway of the Douglas County Clerk of the District Court office in the Hall of Justice, 1701 Farnam St., in Omaha.
“The self-serve payment kiosks introduce another convenient way for non-custodial parents to make child support payments and to stay current with their child support obligation. The kiosks make it possible to pay support quickly in a secure setting during regular business hours and are another example of our ongoing effort to provide customer-focused services,” Stenberg said.
Offering multiple payment options and location. The Nebraska Child Support Payment Center offers more payment options and payment locations than any other child support office in the United States. “Through partnerships created by the Treasurer’s Office with PayNearMe, MoneyGram, Western Union, and U.S. Payments PaySite Kiosks, the payment center now has more than 100,000 payment locations throughout the country,” Reiners said.
Using technology to promote convenience. The Nebraska payment center is the only child support office to be considered a bill generator in the Master Card RPPS network, which allows parents to make electronic online bill payments through Automated Clearing House (ACH) rather than send paper checks by mail. This also allows non-custodial parents to use their banks’ mobile applications to remit payments quickly.
Focusing on excellent customer service. A team of seven staff members is trained to answer questions and offer assistance about receipts and disbursements. The customer service center answers an average of 4,500 calls a month. 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 DHHS.
The following statistics show the growth of the Child Support Payment Center from 2002, the first full year of operation, to the present: