WASHINGTON - Single parents leaving the welfare rolls would receive all the child support payments collected by the states under a bill that passed the House Thursday. The measure could provide more than $3 billion for the working poor over a five-year period.
The bill, which passed 405-18, will ''ensure that these mothers who have left welfare get all the help they deserve,'' said Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., chief sponsor with Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Md.
Under the 1996 welfare reform act, the government takes half the past-due child support it collects for families leaving welfare to compensate for past welfare payments. The legislation would require that all child support arrearages go to the single parent. Johnson said that would put more than $700 million more a year in the hands of low income parents struggling to leave welfare.
Supporters said the measure, which also simplifies distribution of child support collected by states, would help some of the 30 million childen now owed $50 billion in unpaid child support. States would have the option of sharing collections with families still on welfare.
The legislation, which still needs Senate consideration, also seeks to promote fatherhood with grants to both public and private groups that sponsor projects advancing marriage and parenting and helping fathers with job training.
Cardin said the bill would give important help to parents trying to free themselves from welfare and would make it easier to collect child support because fathers would know that the money is going to their children and not to the government.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., recalled how she had been forced to go on welfare 30 years ago when her ex-husband failed to meet support obligations for her and her three small children. ''If we had received child support we would not have gone on welfare,'' she said.
Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., offered an amendment to clarify that any grants to religious organizations for fatherhood or other programs would not be used to subject participants to sectarian worship or proselytization. It was defeated 257-163, with opponents saying current law already makes clear that taxpayer funds can't be used to promote religious activities.
The bill is H.R. 4678.
On the Net: Republican Conference summary of bill: ld Support Distribution Act of 2000