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Child support payments main concern of special session, Hegeman says

  

When the Missouri Senate convenes next week to handle its side of the supplemental budget, Appropriations Committee Chair Dan Hegeman said the main focus will be the child support provision.

“One big thing driving this is the money for the child support court payments. I think that’s the big driver of the session since that authority does run out soon,” Hegeman told The Missouri Times. “This is money captured for the payment of child support. As the money comes through the state, our Child Support Division has the ability to capture that before it goes to the individual if there are arrears.” 

“It’s been a longstanding agreement long before CARES or COVID-19 that if there’s a debt on child support, then any federal rebates go toward that arrear.” 

The Republican senator said when the $1,200 in federal stimulus funds was given to most people in the spring, the Department of Social Services (DSS) was able to capture funds going to people with unpaid child support and remit it toward their debt. Hegeman said the stimulus inflated the state fund more than usual, and the legislature would have to account for the influx in its supplemental efforts. 

The child support payment line in the House budget bill amounted to more than $96.7 million. Hegeman said the funds would have to be earmarked for use by the end of the year. 

He said the Senate’s half of the supplemental process, which will begin with Tuesday’s Appropriations Committee hearing with State Budget Director Dan Haug, would likely follow the House’s lead.  

“I don’t see us varying much at all from what the House passed,” he said. “I’ve not heard of any concerns from the other senators. I would assume we would take our opportunity to quiz Dan Haug as to how the money is to be spent, but in general, I don’t think there are any strong objections to the items, nor can we really add to them. From the appropriations standpoint, it’s really housekeeping.” 

The $1.2 billion package would distribute state and federal funds to various state agencies, including the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). The bill also included an appropriation of $2 million for the Pretrial Witness Protection Fund signed into law this summer. 

The second extraordinary session of 2020 was called to distribute the state’s remaining CARES Act funds before their expiration on Dec. 30 of this year. The House passed the bill earlier this month, sending the budget to the upper chamber for consideration. The session was later expanded to tackle COVID liability protections.

The Senate paused its side of the session until after Thanksgiving due to positive COVID-19 cases among at least one member and at least one staffer. The full chamber is set to convene next week to consider its side of the process.