BIA General Assistance Payments Offset for Child Support

Beginning in November 2012, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) updated their automated system that changed the way they submit payments to Treasury’s Financial Management Service (FMS).  As a result of this change, FMS intercepted general assistance payments issued by BIA via the administrative offset program.  Although these general assistance payments are not currently exempted by law or the Secretary of the Treasury from administrative offset, they are means-tested payments and may reflect that the payees do not have sufficient resources to meet their needs for food, clothing, shelter, and utilities.

Our preliminary research indicates that since November (OCSE Offset Cycles 2012-45 through 2013-01), there have been BIA general assistance offsets in 20 states:  Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.  Not all intercepted BIA payments are means-tested, but neither OCSE nor states currently receive sufficient detailed information to determine the source of these offsets.  It is our understanding that these general assistance payments are typically paid out monthly by BIA and will continue being matched for administrative offset since there is currently no exemption preventing the administrative offset by FMS.  BIA submitted a request to FMS for an exemption and FMS is reviewing that request as quickly as possible.  If the Treasury Secretary approves the exemption request, BIA will be allowed to code these payments as exempt from administrative offset when they submit to FMS, preventing future intercept matches.  As soon as we are notified of the results of BIA’s exemption request, we will let you know.

We are working closely with BIA to get additional details regarding the noncustodial parents whose BIA general assistance payments have been or may be administratively offset.  As we obtain this information, we will contact your state’s offset coordinator and/or point of contact with the information.

There is no federal authority to require states to hold the payment or not offset the payments.  States may want to review their laws regarding the definition of “income,” consideration of noncustodial parent’s subsistence needs, or consideration of an applicable undue hardship exemption.

For more information about the administrative offset program including a current listing of exempted payments, please see AT-10-04.  If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Rebecca Hamil at 202-205-5612 or email scollections@acf.hhs.gov.