County parents have easier child-support payment option under new program 

Making child-support payments is now cheaper and easier for some parents in San Mateo County, thanks to a new program allowing participants to pay via Moneygram without incurring most of the fees that otherwise apply to users of the electronic funds transfer service.

While it would normally cost as much as $45 to use Moneygram to send $500 payments (the average monthly child-support bill in San Mateo County), parents using the program pay only a flat fee of $1.99, regardless of the size of the support payment.

California is one of several states participating in the program, but San Mateo County Human Services Agency Communications Director Effie Milionis Verducci noted that noncustodial parents anywhere in the United States can use the new service to send funds to custodial parents in California.

Human Services Agency Director of Child Support Iliana Rodriguez said there are roughly 8,000 parents in San Mateo County who are owed child support each month, and about 5,000 of the noncustodial parents who owe those funds live outside the county or outside the state.

For parents who need to pay with cash, living outside the area can be a challenge, Rodriquez explained, because cash payments would have to be delivered to a county office.

Mailing a check to the state disbursement center or paying via credit card is not always an option for the 21 percent of parents who owe child support but don't have their wages garnished, Rodriguez said, because many don't have bank accounts.

While federal law requires parents who owe child support to have their wages garnished — when a court orders a certain amount to be withheld from a paycheck — Rodriguez explained that garnishment can be difficult in cases where the payer is self-employed, and practically impossible if the parent works for cash or has no employer of record.

Moneygram locations on the Peninsula include some payday loan businesses, which some activists claim take advantage of low-income residents. But Milionis Verducci said it's unlikely that the new program will drive participants toward payday lenders, because Moneygram's network is mostly made up of large retail chains, such as Safeway, CVS, Albertsons and 7-Eleven.

Because court-ordered child- support payments in California go through a central disbursement office, the new program will be "invisible" to custodial parents, who will still receive their payments from the state the same way they always have, Rodriquez said.

While payers could potentially save money on wire-transfer fees and experience less inconvenience making their payments, Milionis Verducci said the program's biggest benefit will be for children and custodial parents, who will be more likely to get the funds they need regularly and on time.

To send child-support payments via Moneygram, visit www. moneygram.com or call (800) 926-9400. The program requests a child support participant ID number and the receive code 14630 for California child support payments.

For more information, visit dcss.smcgov.org/new-way-pay-child-support

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