State senators who oversee the state Department of Social Services got an update Thursday on the state’s long overdue child support enforcement computer system. It won’t be online until October 2019. The system was supposed to be up and running in 1997.
Jimmy Earley, who’s overseeing the project, told senators DSS is now adapting a system already being used in Delaware. The state had tried to create its own system from scratch before and was never successful.
Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, asked Earley at a hearing Thursday at the Statehouse, “Why is it going to take us that long to make it work in South Carolina?”
Earley said, “It’s my understanding that we’re not able to take the Delaware system and adopt it and use it here without any changes.” He says since the states have different laws and different ways of collecting child support, the Delaware system will have to be adapted.
The federal government required all states to have statewide child support enforcement computer systems. South Carolina’s deadline was 1997, and it’s the only state still without a working system.
The state hired one company to build it, but it quit right before the system was due. That led to a lengthy court battle, which delayed the state from hiring another company. Once the state did hire a second company, it got bought out by a larger firm. That larger firm then also had delays in finishing the system and the state fired it.
The state has been fined $137 million so far for failing to have a working system. The fine for 2016 was $13 million, and the state will continue to pay fines to the federal government until the system is working. Those past vendors have paid about half the fines.
Sen. Young said after the meeting, “It’s totally unacceptable and it’s unjustifiable to the taxpayers of this state, and as an elected official and state senator in this state, it’s going to be my goal and the chairman of this committee to keep the pressure on the agency and move the ball forward and find ways we can get this implemented and the ways to save the taxpayers on the penalties that the state continues to have to pay to the federal government.”
Right now, all 46 county clerks of court have separate child support computer systems. The new system will connect all of them, and connect South Carolina’s system to all other states’, making it easier to find deadbeat parents and collect the child support they owe.