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Father's Day Gift? Help for Dad

June 19, 2009

New York, NY — Just in time for Father’s Day, federal lawmakers will reintroduce a measure today in Congress that seeks to make major changes in child support policy and provide job training for absentee and low-income fathers. The Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act would change the rules in child support programs, so more of the money parents pay in support would actually go to support their children. Advocates say it also would provide job training for low-income dads and help single mothers, who currently must sign over a large portion of their child support payments to reimburse the state and federal governments for public assistance.

Joan Entmacher, vice president for family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center, says the bill would phase out that requirement, in particular.

"It’s very frustrating for these low-income fathers to be paying support and yet their children aren’t receiving it. That creates tension in the family and it’s a policy that’s long overdue for change."

Hundreds of thousands of New York families stand to benefit if more of the money paid in child support reached children, says Entmacher. Some oppose the measure because of the cost, but supporters argue studies show long-term benefits, including children who are less-likely to commit crimes, drop out of school, or use drugs. The bill would also provide tax breaks to low-income workers and absentee parents who are meeting their responsibilities, adds Entmacher.

"It increases the earned income tax credit for low-income workers who don’t have children living with them, and gives and extra boost to the credit for low-income parents who are paying their child support in full."

Another feature of the bill: restoration of federal funding for child support programs. President Barack Obama was one of the Senators who co-sponsored the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act when it was first introduced in 2007. The bill never made it to the floor for a vote.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY