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June 24, 2004

Florida Child Support Collections Top $1 Billion

TALLAHASSEE - Florida's child-support collections exceeded $1 billion in a single year for the first time, the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) announced Thursday. Collections for the uncompleted 2003-2004 fiscal year already have surpassed last year's record total of $964.8 million, setting the 10th consecutive collections record in child support.

"This money represents an important milestone and an encouraging step forward," said Governor Jeb Bush, who has presided over a 52-percent increase in child support collections since taking office. "Florida's efforts to strengthen the child support enforcement system are paying off in real dollars for real families all across our state."

In 1993-'94, the year before DOR took over child support enforcement, Florida collected $388.6 million in child support. Ten years of record collections have come against a backdrop of generally flat or declining caseloads. DOR currently administers about 690,000 child support cases, representing more than 900,000 of Florida's 3.5 million children. Almost one Florida child in four is touched by a child-support case administered by DOR. (One case may involve more than one child.)

Jim Zingale, executive director of DOR, attributed the rising collections to new, more powerful child support enforcement tools enacted by Governor Bush, the Florida Legislature, and Congress, as well as hard work by DOR employees.

If parents refuse to support their children as required by law, DOR can:
  • Garnish payments from paychecks.
  • Intercept income-tax refunds, some insurance settlements, and lottery winnings.
  • Freeze and seize money from financial accounts.
  • Ask for criminal prosecutions of those who owe large amounts of child support and who can afford to pay.

In addition, Governor Bush and the Legislature committed $15.8 million in the new 2004-2005 budget toward the development of a new, more effective child support computer system.

The new computer system will help the child-support program to more effectively apply available enforcement tools to cases where parents haven't paid what they owe. The first phase of the new Child Support Automated Management System (CAMS) also will increase support collections, reduce processing time, and help DOR deliver better service to families. It is expected to be in operation late in 2005.

Zingale cautioned that while DOR has been able to produce significant increases in collections, much work remains to be done. When the latest federal performance rankings are complete sometime later this year, Zingale said he expects Florida to rank about 19th or 20th out of 54 states and territories in performance on five federal performance measures. In 1994, Florida ranked approximately 48th out of 54 states and territories.

"We have made good progress, but we're not satisfied," Zingale said. "Governor Bush and the Cabinet have endorsed our goal of driving the performance of Florida's child support enforcement program into the top five states and territories nationally in the next three to five years. Thanks to the capabilities of our employees, the potential of the CAMS system, and our managers' groundbreaking work in business process management, I am confident we can reach that goal. We have the tools, we have the know-how, and we have the support of the elected leadership. The winners will be the children."