< Back to Search

Alternative System Configuration - Implement Automation Provisions of CSPIA 1998

AT-98-23

Published: July 31, 1998
Information About:
State/Local Child Support Agencies
Topics:
Funding, Federal Financial Participation (FFP), State Systems, Advance Planning Documents (APD)
Types:
Policy, Action Transmittals (AT)

ACTION TRANSMITTAL OCSE-AT-98-23

TO: State Agencies Administering the Child Support Enforcement Program Under Title  IV-D of the Social Security Act and Other Interested Individuals and Organizations

SUBJECT: Alternative System Configuration - To implement provisions of the Child Support Performance and Incentive Act of 1998, P.L. 105-200, related to child support enforcement program automation.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 31, 1998

BACKGROUND: On July 17th, 1998, the President signed into law the Child Support Performance and Incentive Act of 1998 (CSPIA, P. L. 105-200). Section 102 of CSPIA conveys broadened authority for the Office of Chile Support Enforcement (OCSE) to provide Federal financial participation (FFP) for the costs of "alternative system configurations," e.g., child support systems architectures which involve the linking of separate local systems to form a statewide system. CSPIA also adds additional conditions that a State's alternative system configuration must meet in order for OCSE to grant a waiver to authorize development of that system and to provide Federal financial participation (FFP) for costs related to the alternative system configuration.

Because of the need to make this new policy available to States as soon as possible, Congress indicated that current regulations and policies related to OCSE's waiver process and documentation requirements should be followed when not in direct conflict with changes in Federal law. (See H.R. 105-422, p. 23.) This Action Transmittal provides guidance to States regarding the new law.

CONTENT: Section 454A(a) of the Social Security Act ("the Act") requires that States have in operation "a single statewide automated data processing and information retrieval system..." configuration."

The term "alternative system configuration" referred to above is defined at 45 CFR 307.1(c) as "an alternative to a comprehensive computerized support enforcement system. It includes a base system with electronic linkages to an alternative system(s), which is not part of the State's computerized support enforcement project (i.e., not the State's sole system effort), but which is necessary to meet the functional requirements of the statewide, comprehensive computerized support enforcement system under 45 CFR 307.10."

Waiver Requirements

In order for a State to receive a waiver of the single Statewide system requirement, it must meet both the general criteria for a systems-related waiver and the new criteria for an alternative system configuration added by CSPIA.

General Waiver Requirements. In order for the Secretary to grant a waiver of CSE system requirements, the State must demonstrate to the Secretary's satisfaction that its proposal meets the following general criteria:

1. Enables the State, for purposes of section 409(a)(8) of the Act, to achieve the paternity establishment percentages, as defined under section 452 (g)(2) of the Act, and other performance measures established by the Secretary;

2. Allows the State to submit data under section 454(15)(B) of the Act that is complete and reliable; and,

3. Substantially complies with the requirements of title IV-D of the Act.

4. The waiver request must also meet the criteria in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) of section 1115(c) of the Act. In the alternative, the State may provide assurances to the Secretary that steps will be taken to otherwise improve the State's child support enforcement program.

Additional Criteria Related to Alternative System Configuration. CSPIA adds several additional criteria that must be met if the waiver request involves waiving the single statewide system requirement. The Secretary may approve such a waiver request only if the State's alternative system configuration:

1. Meets all of the functional requirements of sections 454(16) and 454A of the Act. Under this requirement, the alternative system configuration (i. e., the base system and linked local system(s)) must enable the State to meet all the functional requirements of the Family Support Act of 1988 and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 as set forth in Federal law and regulations and the document entitled "Automated Systems for Child Support Enforcement: A Guide for States;"

2. Calculates the distribution of child support collections in accordance with section 457 of the Act and instructions issued by OCSE, including the distribution of support paid by a non-custodial parent to children in two or more families, in different counties within the State, or in different States, and for distributions of support payments to other States;

3. Is designed so that there is only one point of contact in the State that receives and automatically processes and refers through the system interstate case referrals and that monitors and tracks case activity on all interstate and intrastate cases within the State;

4. Ensures that standardized forms, data elements and definitions are used throughout the State. Under this requirement, States must develop standardized forms, data elements, and definitions that shall be used by all local jurisdictions on their alternative systems. Standardized forms, data elements and definitions must reflect any standards issued by OCSE; and,

5. Is able to process child support cases as quickly, efficiently, and effectively as such cases would be processed through a single statewide system that meets Federal requirements for such system.

Additional Factors to be Considered. In evaluating a State's waiver request, the Secretary will pay particular attention to several aspects of a State's alternative system configuration. These include:

1. Whether the State's alternative system configuration provides the State IV-D agency with the ability to control, account for, and monitor all factors in support collection and paternity determination processes;

2. Whether the State's alternative system configuration eliminates duplicative data entry. Common data elements contained in more than one component of the alternative system configuration must be entered only once and updates to common data elements must be made automatically to all components of the system; that is, the data must be electronically synchronized; and,

3. The extent to which all alternative system configuration components are electronically linked and the linkage is transparent to users.

4. The principles of transparent linkage and avoidance of duplicate data entry are essential for a State electing to implement an alternative system configuration. The intent is to ensure that caseworkers using different local systems within the State, as well as child support workers in other States, are not adversely impacted in processing child support cases by a State's decision to implement an alternative system configuration rather than a single Statewide system. The alternative system configuration must ensure that the linkage(s) between systems within a State will not result in duplicative data entry when a case transfers from one local system within the State to another local system within that State. The proposed design for the linkage between local systems within a State through the base system must ensure the electronic transmission of data among systems. The alternative system configuration also must ensure coordinated, automated intrastate case management by the IV-D agency.

Time Limitation. In addition to the various functional requirements which an alternative system configuration must meet, CSPIA stipulates that a State must be able to complete the alternative system configuration in no more time than it would take to complete a single Statewide system. A State must demonstrate convincingly in its implementation APD that the alternative system configuration selected will not take longer to complete than a single statewide system. A State's failure to make this demonstration to the Secretary's satisfaction would preclude her granting a waiver to permit the State to develop and implement an alternative system configuration.

Federal Financial Participation (FFP) in the Costs of an Approved Alternative System Configuration

Under section 455(a)(1)(D) of the Act, as added by CSPIA, FFP is available for the costs of an alternative statewide system (i. e., alternative system configuration) granted a waiver by the Secretary under section 452(d)(3) of the Act, as amended by CSPIA. Under this provision, FFP is available for the development, implementation, operation, and maintenance of alternative system configurations, including the base system, linkages to local systems, and development of new, or major changes or enhancements to, existing local (i.e., "alternative") systems.

FFP at the enhanced (80 percent rate) is available for the cost of the base system, including hardware, operating systems software, applications software, and electronic linkages with local systems within the alternative system configuration approved under a waiver in accordance with section 455(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act and the State's approved APD. FFP at the 80 percent rate may not exceed a State's allocation of the $400 million in such funding made available pursuant to PRWORA and OCSE regulation. In accordance with existing regulations at 45 CFR 307.5(h)(2), all other costs, including costs associated with alternative (e.g., local) systems, are eligible for FFP only at the regular, 66 percent matching rate.

Total FFP for costs associated with an alternative system configuration are capped by statute at the lesser of:

(a) the total costs of developing, implementing, maintaining and operating the least-cost approach to a single statewide system; or,

(b) the total costs of developing, implementing, maintaining and operating the alternative system configuration.

In determining the funding cap, OCSE will consider the estimates provided by the State as part of its waiver request and APD. OCSE will scrutinize States' cost estimates very carefully; the cap amount will be subject to OCSE approval. States should anticipate that OCSE will review those estimates very thoroughly and will require substantial and detailed documentation regarding the assumptions contained in the estimates and the methodology used to derive the estimates.

The limit on FFP is in effect through the date the system is implemented, plus an additional five years. If the development and implementation take longer than originally estimated, the State is still subject to the cap on FFP for five years after the date of implementation and must absorb any additional costs related to the delay. During that period of time, FFP in costs associated with developing, implementing, maintaining and operating the alternative system configuration may not exceed the cap established by OCSE.

If a State incurs additional costs in implementing or operating the alternative system configuration, those costs would not be subject to Federal financial participation (FFP) and would have to be borne entirely by the State.

The Secretary will not adjust cost estimates periodically to reflect increases in costs; States are fully at risk if costs for an approved alternative system configuration exceed the limitation established by OCSE. The only circumstance where OCSE can envision adjusting the FFP limitation is where a State proposes, and OCSE approves, a project to increase the functionality of the alternative system configuration, e.g., to respond to new Federal requirements. The revised cost cap would be based on a comparison of the costs of the revised alternative system configuration and a single statewide system of comparable functionality.

The limit on FFP is not an entitlement. States which receive approval for an alternative system configuration are still subject to ADP approval process for both enhanced and regular rate funding related to systems development. As with all other expenditures, States will have to be able to demonstrate that all costs for which FFP is claimed are reasonable, necessary, allowable and allocable.

Other Requirements

All child support systems, including those operating under a waiver of any of the functional requirements of section 454(16) of the Act and/or 45 CFR 307.10, or the single statewide system requirement under sections 454(16) and 454A of the Act are subject to 45 CFR Part 95 and 45 CFR Part 307. Even though a waiver, once granted, does not have to be renewed, the State's waiver is part of an approved APD and the APD is subject to the same requirements, such as regular periodic reporting, annual and/or as-needed updating, compliance, and prior approval, as any other APD.

Submission of Waiver Requests

Waiver requests must be submitted as part of an APD that meets all of the conditions in section 452(d)(1) of the Act and the implementing regulations at 45 CFR 307.15, except those requirements noted above which do not apply to an alternative system configuration. In addition, as waivers for alternative system configurations will likely be part of a State's "corrective compliance plan" under CSPIA, State's should consult OCSE AT-98-22 regarding requirements for a corrective compliance plan.

A State's APD submitted as part of the waiver request must comply with the procedures in 45 CFR Part 95, Subpart F.

If a State's waiver request and implementation APD do not demonstrate to the Secretary's satisfaction that all these conditions will be met by the State's alternative system configuration, then the Secretary cannot approve the State's waiver. OCSE will require that the State's submission demonstrate in detail how the alternative system configuration will satisfy these conditions. Simple assertions that the system will meet these conditions are not sufficient documentation to permit the Secretary to grant a waiver.

RELATED REFERENCES:
OCSE-AT 90-10, dated October 1, 1990
OCSE-AT-98-22, dated July 31, 1998
Pub. L. 105-200, the Child Support Performance and Incentive Act of 1998
House Report 105-422, dated February 27, 1998

INQUIRIES TO: Robin Rushton, Director
Division of Child Support Information Systems
Office of Child Support Enforcement

David Gray Ross
Commissioner
Office of Child Support Enforcement