High-Volume, Automated Administrative Enforcement in Interstate Cases
March 2, 1998
TO: STATE AGENCIES ADMINISTERING CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT PLANS UNDER TITLE IV-D OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT AND OTHER INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS
SUBJECT: Implementing section 466(a)(14) of the Social Security Act, High-Volume, Automated Administrative Enforcement in Interstate Cases
BACKGROUND: P.L. 105-33, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which included technical amendments to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 (PRWORA), P.L. 104-193, was enacted July 29, 1997. The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) has received numerous inquiries from States and individuals regarding interpretation of section 466(a)(14) of the Social Security Act (the Act), as amended.
The primary purpose of this Action Transmittal (AT) is to inform States and other interested individuals and organizations of OCSE's policy response to inquiries regarding high-volume, automated administrative enforcement in interstate cases. OCSE is mindful that it can and should erve as a catalyst, facilitating the exchange of necessary operational information among the States and otherwise helping States carry out section 466(a)(14) while concurrently resolving issues which have arisen regarding the closely related statutory provision for financial institution data matches. OCSE is committed to taking a proactive role, working in close collaboration with our State partners and other interested parties in implementing these interrelated features of PRWORA.
ATTACHMENT: Attached is information regarding section 466(a)(14) of the Social Security Act (the Act) and questions and answers in response to inquiries.
INQUIRIES: Regional Administrators
David Gray Ross
Office of Child Support
HIGH VOLUME ADMINISTRATIVE ENFORCEMENT IN INTERSTATE CASES
Section 323 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) added section 466(a)(14) of the Social Security Act (the Act) to create a new child support enforcement mechanism called Administrative Enforcement in Interstate Cases.
Technical amendments to PRWORA in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (BBA) revised section 466(a)(14) of the Act to provide for "High- Volume, Administrative Enforcement in Interstate Cases" (AEI) which is designed to enable child support agencies to quickly locate and secure assets held by delinquent obligors in another State or jurisdiction without opening a full-blown interstate IV-D case in the other State. Although various interstate enforcement remedies to collect arrears are available, AEI differs from the way such enforcement is traditionally pursued in several respects. We will explain these variations in this AT.
Section 466(a)(14) was amended by section 5550 of the BBA to read as follows:
"(14) HIGH-VOLUME, AUTOMATED ADMINISTRATIVE ENFORCEMENT IN INTERSTATE CASES.-
"(A) IN GENERAL.-Procedures under which-
"(i) the State shall use high-volume automated administrative enforcement, to the same extent as used for intrastate cases, in response to a request made by another State to enforce support orders, and shall promptly report the results of such enforcement procedure to the requesting State;
"(ii) the State may, by electronic or other means, transmit to another State a request for assistance in enforcing support orders through high-volume, automated administrative enforcement, which request-
"(I) shall include such information as will enable the State to which the request is transmitted to compare the information about the cases to the information in the data bases of the State; and
"(II) shall constitute a certification by the requesting State-
"(aa) of the amount of support under an order the payment of which is in arrears; and
"(bb) that the requesting State has complied with all procedural due process requirements applicable to each case;
"(iii) if the State provides assistance to another State pursuant to this paragraph with respect to a case, neither State shall consider the case to be transferred to the caseload of such other State; and
"(iv) the State shall maintain records of-
"(I) the number of such requests for assistance received by the State;
"(II) the number of cases for which the State collected support in response to such a request; and
"(III) the amount of such collected support.
"(B) HIGH-VOLUME AUTOMATED ADMINISTRATIVE ENFORCEMENT.-In this part, the term `high-volume automated administrative enforcement' means the use of automatic data processing to search various State data bases,including license records, employment service data, and State new hire registries, to determine whether information is available regarding a parent who owes a child support obligation.".
Section 5550 of the BBA also amended section 458(d) of the Act to allow both States to count collections through this mechanism for incentive purposes.
Summary of changes to the original PRWORA requirement as a result of section 5550 of the BBA
The title changed to "High-volume, Automated Administrative Enforcement in Interstate Cases." The assisting State's response timeframe changed from 5 days to "promptly" report the results to the requesting State High-volume automated administrative enforcement is defined as the search of various State data bases to uncover information regarding a child support obligor who is in arrears.
For incentive payments purposes (Section 458(d) of the Act) amounts collected by this means are treated as having been collected in full by both the requesting and assisting States.
In keeping with our policy of generally limiting regulations to provisions for which regulations are prescribed by law, we are, at present, not expecting to issue implementing regulations for these requirements. However, we are issuing this AT to give States additional guidance on implementing these requirements.
States are directed to rely primarily on the statutory language and this AT to carry out this provision.
Two retreats on Administrative Enforcement for Interstate Cases (AEI) were held to give the States an opportunity to reach a consensus on issues that arose in implementing these requirements. On April 14-16, 1997, at a national training conference held in Providence, RI, a group of State and Federal child support staff held several breakout sessions to address AEI implementation issues. This conference was held after PRWORA was enacted (August 22, 1996). The second group of breakout sessions was part of the Interstate Retreat held October 28-31, 1997, in Albuquerque, NM which took place after the technical amendments were enacted (August 29, 1997). Our questions and responses are partially based on discussions held at those Retreats.
Definitions and Terms used in this document:
High Volume Administrative Enforcement for Interstate Cases (AEI) - The use of automated data processing to search State data bases and seize identified assets of delinquent obligors, using the same techniques as used in intrastate cases, upon request of another State.
Requesting State - State sending request for AEI to another State.
Assisting State - State matching the requesting State's delinquent obligors against its data bases and, if appropriate, seizing assets on behalf of the requesting State.
Please Note: We have not used the interstate terms "initiating" and "responding" to describe the States involved in AEI to distinguish this process from conventional IV-D interstate actions in which a IV-D case is transferred from one State to another for all appropriate IV-D activities.
QUESTION AND ANSWERS
QUESTION 1: What is High-Volume, Automated Administrative Enforcement in Interstate Cases?
ANSWER 1: Section 466(a)(14) of the Act requires that each State enacts laws requiring the use of procedures for high-volume automated administrative enforcement, to the same extent as used for intrastate cases, in response to a request made by another State to enforce support orders, and to promptly report the results of such enforcement procedure to the requesting State. The assisting State must use automatic data processing to search various State data bases including financial institutions, license records, employment service data, and State new hire registries, to determine whether information is available regarding a parent who owes a child support obligation and proceed to seize any identified assets. The requesting State may submit AEI requests including data on delinquent obligors by electronic or other means. The request must include the necessary information to enable the assisting State to compare the information about the obligors and their debts to the information in the data bases of the State. The request constitutes a certification by the requesting State of the support delinquency owed by each obligor and that the requesting State has complied with all procedural due process requirements applicable to each obligor included in the request.
These cases are not considered transferred to the IV-D caseload of the assisting State, i.e., the assisting State does not open an interstate IV-D case during this process. The assisting State must maintain records of the number of requests for assistance, the number of cases for which the State collected support in response to such a request and the amount of collected support.
When it receives an AEI request to enforce support arrearages from another jurisdiction, the assisting State must incorporate the data on delinquent obligors submitted with the request into its usual automated matching process against its own data bases, as appropriate. If assets are identified by any match(es), the assisting State proceeds to seize the identified assets on behalf of the requesting State.
It should be noted that PRWORA also added Section 466(a)(17) to the Act, requiring State IV-D Agencies to enter into agreements with financial institutions (FI) to develop and operate data match systems, and for States to pass laws requiring FIs to provide this information to the IV-D agency. In addition, FIs must provide account information on a quarterly basis for each non-custodial parent identified by the State who has an account at the institution and who owes past-due support. The agreements must include provisions for FIs to encumber or surrender non-custodial parents'(NCPs) assets in response to a notice of a lien or levy. Since the FI match and seizure process is an automated, high-volume enforcement technique, it is the most logical example of an enforcement action that must be taken under AEI.
QUESTION 2: Must States pass enabling legislation in order to meet AEI requirements?
ANSWER 2: Section 323 of PRWORA amended section 466(a) of the Act, which begins: "...each State must have in effect laws requiring the use of the following procedures...." Therefore, State law must require the IV-D Agency to act on behalf of other IV-D jurisdictions in the manner prescribed by section 466(a)(14) of the Act. States must evaluate their own statutes to determine whether they need additional legislation or whether their current statutory authority permits them to implement AEI by administrative rule or similar action that has the force and effect of law.
QUESTION 3: How does Quick Locate differ from AEI?
ANSWER 3: In Quick Locate, a request may be made of the assisting State to locate the noncustodial parent or alleged parent; there is no responsibility to either locate or collect assets, or to enforce a support order. Quick locate is similar to AEI in that neither activity requires the assisting State to open an interstate IV-D case during the process.
QUESTION 4: What starts the AEI process?
ANSWER 4: AEI is triggered by a request, rather than a formal interstate referral, from one State IV-D agency to another to use high-volume, automated administrative enforcement to locate and seize assets to satisfy arrearages owed by obligors in the assisting State's caseload. The request must certify: (1) the amount of each obligor's debt and (2) that appropriate due process requirements have been met by the requesting State with respect to each obligor. The request must also contain sufficient identifying information on the delinquent obligors to permit the assisting State to conduct automated matches against data bases which could identify the location of assets owned by the obligors.
QUESTION 5: What type of case is this, if not an interstate case?
ANSWER 5: The case is not transferred to the assisting State's caseload using interstate forms to request all necessary services. An AEI request to enforce support orders does not constitute formal IV-D interstate case referrals. The assisting State does not open a IV-D case in the conventional sense either during the matching phase or, in the event of a "hit," when it seizes and forwards assets to the requesting State. Accordingly, when an AEI action is completed, the assisting State need not meet IV-D case closure criteria before "closing" a case involving a delinquent obligor submitted under an AEI request. The assisting State must, however, maintain statistics on AEI case actions and associated collections.
Requesting State Responsibilities
QUESTION 6: What are the requesting State's responsibilities when requesting assistance under AEI?
ANSWER 6: Section 466(a)(14) of the Act specifies that the request constitutes a certification: 1) of the amount of support delinquency and, 2) that the requesting State has complied with all procedural due process requirements with respect to cases submitted. Since asset seizure by the assisting State is AEI's primary objective, the requesting State's certification that due process has been met must be a certification that the requesting State's own due process requirements have been met.
QUESTION 7: In what manner should the requesting State submit the cases?
ANSWER 7: Section 466(a)(14) requires use of electronic or other means to transmit data between States. A tape match could be used. Soon all States will have Connect:Direct (C:D) technology available to them and will be able to use C:D for transmitting AEI requests and responses.
C:D is a communications network established by the Social Security Administration (SSA) linking States and Federal Agencies, including the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), to provide a high speed, automated method of exchanging data. SSA has provided copies of C:D software and has installed dedicated communication lines to data centers in each State.
OCSE is using C:D to exchange FPLS and Tax (including 1099) data with State agencies, as well as to meet PRWORA's new requirements for transmitting data for New Hire Reporting, Quarterly Wage, Unemployment and Federal Case Registry purposes. With appropriate modifications to existing software, States will be able to use C:D to transmit AEI data to all other IV-D jurisdictions on the network. In this regard, we will share more details on C:D technology as they become available.
QUESTION 8: How many individual requests can---or should---a State send to another State per AEI transmission? An unlimited number? Selected cases based on rational criteria? Should there be a penalty if States fail to notify other States that they are sending large numbers of cases for AEI?
ANSWER 8: The law does not specify the quantity of cases that may be processed at one time. However, although some States are comfortable with receiving unlimited numbers of cases referred in any single AEI transmission, a large majority of State participants attending the two recent Interstate Retreats favor a more selective approach and clearly feel that a shotgun approach should be discouraged, at least until States have had some experience with this process. This conclusion is based on concerns that many State systems do not have the ability to successfully integrate large numbers of AEI cases into their IV-D data bases without it being disruptive or extremely time-consuming.
Another concern with sending large numbers of delinquent cases in an AEI request is the potential cost. As States enact PRWORA-required legislation (section 466(a)(17) of the Act) to conduct data matches with financial institutions, some State laws will permit financial institutions to impose fees on the State IV-D Agency for data matching. (See Fees Question and Answer #21 for responsibility for paying fees.)
Accordingly, we encourage States to send only those cases for which there is a rational basis for the request. Two criteria are suggested: (1) specific indication or knowledge that NCP's assets may be in a particular State, and (2) the application of logical criteria to identify delinquent obligors, specifically including: NCP's geographic proximity to the assisting State, NCP's known past association with the assisting State, and Expanded Federal Parent Locator Service (EFPLS) match results showing NCP's link with assisting State.
Ultimately, however, an assisting State's ability to process a high-volume administrative enforcement request, using FI data match or other data matches, depends on whether the case information submitted by the requesting State meets the assisting State's match criteria. Therefore, communication between States prior to the submittal of administrative enforcement requests is recommended, especially when a State intends to include data on a large number of delinquent obligors in an AEI request to another State. While it is suggested that the requesting State should notify the assisting State in advance, there is no penalty should they fail to do so.
QUESTION 9: Which State determines what type of case to submit (e.g., amount of arrearage)?
ANSWER 9: The requesting State should establish standard criteria that cases should meet before being referred to another State for AEI. Although there is no standard criteria for cases submitted as part of an AEI request, clearly an assisting State can include an AEI request in its own data matches only if the case meets the assisting State's criteria for the particular data match (e.g., arrears threshold or date of last payment). Therefore, the assisting State's match criteria ultimately determines whether this remedy can be implemented.
QUESTION 10: What is the appropriate timing and frequency of requests?
ANSWER 10: Section 466(a)(14) of the Act does not specify how often or when requests are to be made. It is suggested that the requesting State work with the assisting State in advance to develop procedures and coordinate all technical and logistical aspects necessary for a successful AEI transmission. Coordination could include agreements on when requests are transmitted so that the assisting State can best manage its overall workload and cycle of data base matches (e.g., quarterly FI data matches). In addition, States should agree to reasonable parameters for determining which cases to refer for AEI.
Data Element Requirements
QUESTION 11: What data elements should accompany AEI requests?
Standard data elements? State-specific data elements? Who decides which elements are to be included?
ANSWER 11: The statute provides that a requesting State seeking assistance under this provision:
"shall include such information as will enable the State to which the request is transmitted to compare the information about the case to the information in the data bases of the State...."
The statute does not specify what data elements are to be used in AEI requests. We recognize the advantage of a standardized format so that States can develop consistent software to simplify use of this enforcement technique. This format should take into consideration how the FI match under section 466(a)(17) of the Act will be structured, since FI data match and seizure is the most likely AEI enforcement technique. (A separate Action Transmittal providing policy guidance on the FI match is being issued.) Certain data elements will be needed in this standardized format. We intend to work with States and financial institutions to develop a standard format for FI data matches but in the meantime States should use those data elements that appear appropriate. The following data elements are suggested:
Requesting State case ID
Certified amount of arrears
Date of last payment
With the possible exception of DOB, these elements are critical for matching purposes against State data bases, in particular the FI data match, and contain the identifiers that allow the assisting State to transmit seized assets to the requesting State. Optional identifying data elements that could be helpful for matching purposes are: aliases, gender, place of birth, or Custodial Parent's (CP) name.
It is ultimately the assisting State's data needs and/or limitations that will dictate what data elements are necessary, and matches against different types of data bases may require different elements. Nonetheless, it is desirable to standardize AEI data elements to the greatest extent possible.
Since the requesting State must provide the necessary data elements to allow the assisting State to carry out the automated action, the elements listed above should be sufficient to allow all States to determine whether the submittals meet their own requirements for various data matches.
QUESTION 12: How would requesting States determine the information needed by the assisting State?
ANSWER 12: States should work with adjoining States, or other States in which they have reason to believe obligors residing in their State might have assets, to establish jointly agreed-upon procedures for AEI requests. States have suggested development of a list or matrix, perhaps maintained and updated by OCSE, of State contacts (person, phone, unit) for each State and AEI request procedures/criteria. Such information may be appropriately placed in the Interstate Referral Guide (IRG).
Assisting State Responsibilities
QUESTION 13: What are the assisting State's responsibilities when responding to requests for assistance under AEI?
ANSWER 13: The assisting State must: 1) use automatic data processing to search various State databases; 2) seize any identified assets, for example, accounts in FIs, to satisfy the support debt; 3) maintain records of the number of requests for assistance received, the number of cases for which the State collected support in response to such a request and the amount of such collected support; 4) promptly report the results of the enforcement procedures to the requesting State, and 5) send the collections to the requesting State. The assisting State may (but is not required to) report negative match results to the requesting State.
QUESTION 14: Which automated matches should assisting States use to assist a requesting State?
ANSWER 14: The process described in Section 466(a)(14)(A) clearly anticipates matching against data bases which identify assets that can be seized by the assisting State. Section 466(a)(14)(B) of the Act requires assisting States to search various State data bases, and mentions specifically: license records, employment service data, and State new hire registries.
The FI data match under section 466(a)(17) appears to be the best suited tool to promptly identify and seize such assets. States must also match AEI requests against their other data bases to identify licenses, employment, other assets, and other information that could assist the requesting State to locate an obligor or to take other appropriate enforcement actions.
QUESTION 15: How does an assisting State fulfill the AEI locate function?
ANSWER 15: Section 466(a)(14) of the Act requires that incoming AEI data be matched against various data bases of the assisting State. The assisting State performs an asset locate search and if assets that can be seized are located, proceeds to seize the assets and send the collection to the requesting State. If other locate information is found, the assisting State must report the results to the requesting State so that the requesting State can take appropriate action.
QUESTION 16: How do assisting States fulfill the enforcement requirement?
ANSWER 16: AEI is designed to result in prompt but limited enforcement action. When assets are uncovered, the assisting State must take steps to seize the obligor's assets and send them to the requesting State. Since the assisting State does not open an interstate IV-D case under this process, AEI does not involve an ongoing or long-term enforcement remedy, but rather a "one-shot" or "quick" enforcement action. When a "hit" occurs, an asset that can be seized is identified, and the assisting State will initiate an enforcement action consistent with its due process standards to collect on the arrears amount on behalf of the requesting State.
When an asset belonging to a delinquent obligor is identified, the assisting State must proceed to collect the indicated debt, pursuant to applicable State law. Section 466(a)(14)(A)(i) of the Act requires States to use administrative enforcement (section 466(c)(1)(G)) "to the same extent" as used for their own intrastate cases. Therefore, the asset must be seized and the proceeds sent to the requesting State.
When an AEI match uncovers location information or an asset that is suitable for ongoing enforcement (e.g., employment, real property, Unemployment Compensation Insurance (UCI) benefits, lottery installment payments), the assisting State must promptly notify the requesting State. Unless it chooses to implement direct income withholding under UIFSA, the requesting State should then promptly submit the case, using interstate forms, to the assisting State so that all appropriate enforcement remedies are used.
Similarly, if a match finds that an obligor has a driver's license in the assisting State, any action against such license is more appropriately pursued by opening a conventional IV-D interstate case with the other State. Neither license suspension or revocation nor on-going income withholding is contemplated as an appropriate enforcement action under AEI. On the other hand, a FI match and seizure is a "one-shot" enforcement action contemplated as appropriate for AEI.
QUESTION 17: How are appeals and contests handled?
ANSWER 17: The assisting State should use the same appeal procedures used for any other seizure process in the State. The law of the State where the asset is located would apply. When assets are frozen or seized, property owners frequently, under State law, have rights to contest. Following an AEI action, the contest takes place in the State where the property is located.
The requesting State should be prepared to provide pertinent case information promptly if there is a contest when an assisting State seizes or attempts to seize assets.
QUESTION 18: How do jurisdictional issues get resolved?
ANSWER 18: Jurisdictional issues should not arise with respect to this remedy as the requests are not opened as interstate IV-D cases in the assisting State. Moreover, by definition these "enforcement/locate" actions are to be initiated through administrative processes without court involvement.
QUESTION 19: What is meant by "promptly report the results of such enforcement procedure to the requesting State"?
ANSWER 19: The State must use this enforcement tool to the same extent as similar enforcement is used for IV-D intrastate cases. States are required to process AEI requests under the same timeframes as they would their intrastate cases.
QUESTION 20: What are the AEI recordkeeping and reporting requirements?
ANSWER 20: The assisting State must maintain records of: 1) the number of requests for AEI received; 2) the number of cases for which the State collected support in response to a request; 3) the amount of the collected support. The State must also promptly report the results of AEI activities to the requesting State.
AEI collections made by the assisting State are reported to the Federal OCSE on the Quarterly Report of Collections, Form OCSE-34, as "Collections Made On Behalf of Other States" (Line 20). AEI collections received by the requesting State are reported on Form OCSE-34 as "Collections Received From Other States" (Line 7). The assisting State's records concerning the number of AEI requests it receives and the number of "hits" in which a collection is made and amounts collected must also be maintained, but are reported separately to OCSE on the new Annual Data Report (OCSE-157, lines 40-42). (Form OCSE-34 is in the process of being revised; the correct lines for the entry of these amounts will change.)
Since AEI requests are not interstate IV-D cases in the assisting State, assisting States should not include such requests as IV-D cases in their State Case Registry (section 454A(e) of the Act), regardless of whether any automated match occurred or collection was obtained in the AEI process.
Fees, Incentives and Federal Financial Participation (FFP) in Administrative Costs
QUESTION 21: May assisting States require requesting States to pay fees charged by FIs for data matching?
ANSWER 21: Under section 466(a)(17) of the Act, a State agency may pay a reasonable fee to a FI for conducting data matches, not to exceed the actual costs incurred by the FI. Since AEI requests are not interstate IV-D cases in the assisting State, the requirement at 45 CFR 303.7(d) that the responding State pay all fees, except for genetic testing, does not apply. Therefore, the assisting State may require the requesting State to pay any FI fees applicable to the requesting State's AEI requests. This should ensure that requesting States do not dump cases on assisting States and that assisting States do not incur an inappropriate financial burden.
QUESTION 22: How are incentives determined?
ANSWER 22: Section 5550 of the BBA revised section 458(d) of the Act to clarify that both assisting and requesting States are eligible for Federal incentive funding for collections as a result of AEI. Therefore, these collections must be reported by both States on their respective quarterly OCSE-34 reports. States are not required to maintain the names, SSNs, or any other identifiers of parties involved in AEI requests. Since AEI collections sent to another State are used to calculate incentives, they will be subject to State and/or Federal audits. Therefore, assisting States should keep collection data records for three years.
QUESTION 23: When support is collected as a result of an AEI action, where are collections sent? If collections are sent directly to the requesting State, how can assisting States count these collections for incentives purposes?
ANSWER 23: Collections may not be sent directly to the requesting State from the asset source. Collections must be sent to the IV-D agency in the assisting State, as in intrastate cases. The collection must then be recorded and forwarded to the requesting State.
QUESTION 24: Is FFP available to both States for processing AEI requests?
ANSWER 24: Each State will receive FFP for administrative costs associated with these high-volume administrative enforcement actions.