- - Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Politicians have talked for years about solving child poverty, but the problem endures. One of every three children from a single-parent household lives in poverty. Absent parents owe billions of dollars in unpaid child support payments nationwide, and millions of children receive nothing at all.

When families receive what they are owed, it can be a game-changer for struggling children and custodial parents. Child support provides up to $5,700 in additional income for food stamp recipients — a 54 percent increase in income on average. This financial boost lifts nearly 1 million children out of poverty each year.

Without these needed resources, it’s easy for families to get trapped in a cycle of dependency. That’s a big reason why the number of poor, single-parent households on one or more welfare programs is on the rise. They are desperate to fill the economic void left by absent parents who won’t pay up.

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Thankfully, the Trump administration is breaking the mold and delivering real results.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently penned a memo reminding states that federal law allows them to require parents on food stamps to cooperate with child support enforcement efforts. This policy — which has been a success in the cash welfare program for more than two decades — requires that parents cooperate as states help children establish paternity, secure child support awards, track down absent parents or actually collect what is owed.

Linking child support and the food stamp program is a simple and effective way to protect the best interests of vulnerable children, while lifting more single-parent families out of poverty. We know child support cooperation works because it’s working in the states that are using it.

After Kansas implemented the reform in 2015, child support collections for affected families increased by nearly 40 percent within six months. Needy families across the state have gained nearly $2 million in additional child support payments each year, helping end the cycle of dependency these families previously faced.

Earlier this year, Arkansas — a national leader on welfare reform — became the latest trend-setting state to require child support cooperation. This latest progress builds on the state’s ongoing commitment to enact a welfare system that promotes self-sufficiency and protect resources for the truly needy.

States have proven these programs work. Even without full compliance, families across the country can expect to receive up to $300 million in combined additional support each year when all states implement the child support cooperation rules. And when children receive financial support from both parents, it’s a win-win for families and taxpayers alike.

Single-parent families who do not receive the child support they deserve are nearly 50 percent more likely to receive Medicaid, nearly 60 percent more likely to be on food stamps, and nearly 70 percent more likely to receive public housing or rent subsidies. They are more than three times as likely to receive cash welfare and twice as likely to receive general assistance or other welfare benefits.

Without child support, most single-parent families will remain trapped in dependency for years to come. Fewer than 1-in-10 single parents leave food stamps within a year, while more than 60 percent languish in dependency for more than eight years. But when these families receive the support they are owed, they can escape the cycle of dependency altogether.

This is an issue that transcends politics. A whopping 84 percent of voters — including 84 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Democrats — support child support cooperation requirements. Voters across the political spectrum want to ensure more families get the support they are owed.

Now is the moment for these reforms. We finally have a presidential administration willing to tackle child poverty and dependency head-on. President Trump and the USDA are calling for child support cooperation, but they can’t do it alone. States need to lead the charge to make it happen.

Linking child support cooperation to the food stamp program is an innovative way to encourage parents to take responsibility for their families, lift more children out of poverty and move more families out of dependency.

This USDA memo is a refreshing reminder that while many politicians give lip service to solving the issues of poverty, the Trump administration is delivering. State governments: The ball is in your court.

• Jonathan Ingram is the vice president of policy and research at the Foundation for Government Accountability.

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