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Is linking child support to food stamps a good idea?

In the near future,the U.S. Congress will consider proposed legislation that would change the way that needy parents in Texas and elsewhere access food assistance. The proposed change would require parents to engage in child support enforcement efforts supervised by the federal government in order to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as SNAP. Many people oppose this proposed change, arguing that it places additional barriers between needy families and assistance.

States already have the ability to require child support enforcement as a condition of receiving SNAP benefits. However, only six states currently require such efforts. One reason why participation is so low is due to the fact that enforcing the policy is expensive. It's also important to note that the requirement does not seem to increase child support collections in any significant manner.

Another area of concern is the fact that forcing child support collections participation on all parents seeking food stamp assistance ignores the special needs of parents and children who are victims of domestic violence. In these cases, every effort is usually made to avoid contact with the other party. Enforcing child support payments very often aggravates an already tense relationship between estranged parents.

The strongest argument against these proposed changes comes down to the financial merits. Creating this type of nationwide requirement could cost as much as $11 billion over the next 10 years. The return on that investment is expected to be paltry, as child support enforcement is a complex matter. Many Texas parents will watch as Congress considers whether to make this proposed change. 

Source: governing.com, "Why Forcing Food Stamp Participants to Receive Child-Support Services Is a Bad Idea", Vicki Turetsky, May 16, 2018

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