- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska state officials are trying to contact more than 430 parents who are owed child support after discovering that the Department of Health and Human Services didn’t send payments in a timely manner.

Department officials acknowledged Wednesday that some unpaid money has sat in a state account for years - as far back as 1998.

The cases involve divorced parents whose children were in state custody, mostly in foster care. The state collected child support payments from non-custodial parents and the Department of Children and Family Services used it to pay for services the children received, such as foster care and counseling.

Excess money was supposed to go to the court-ordered payee, usually the custodial parent, but the payments instead remained in a state account. Department officials said it wasn’t clear why.

Officials are sending letters to 431 parents who are collectively owed about $250,000, said Doug Weinberg, director of the state’s Children and Family Services Division. The amounts owed to individual parents vary, but average about $500 per person.

Weinberg said the account at one point held about $3 million, but officials have since reduced it to $1.4 million. The 431 parents are the people whose addresses the department has confirmed, he said.

Weinberg said a department employee brought the account to his attention about two years ago, and the department has been working ever since to see identify people who are owed money and services that could still be reimbursed. The account has more than 10,000 claims, and most are “very, very small dollar amounts,” he said.

“We’ve made a concerted effort to identify and locate as many custodial parents as possible,” he said.

Doug Kreifels, the division’s chief financial officer, said the department has updated its policies to ensure that child support payments are sent to the proper recipient each month.

Department spokesman Russ Reno said the division sent letters to the affected parents on Wednesday.

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Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte

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