Use of Electronic Signatures on Applications for IV-D Services
DATE: August 25, 2009
TO: State and Tribal IV-D Directors
FROM: Vicki Turetsky, Commissioner, Office of Child Support Enforcement
SUBJECT: Use of Electronic Signatures on Applications for IV-D Services
QUESTION 1: Is there a Federal prohibition against State IV-D agencies accepting electronic signatures on on-line applications for IV-D services?
RESPONSE 1: No, there is no Federal prohibition against State IV-D agencies accepting electronic signatures on applications for IV-D services; however, States must determine if this practice is allowable under State law.
There is no prohibition in the Social Security Act or in Federal regulations against the use of electronic signatures on applications for IV-D services. 45 CFR Section 303.2(a)(3) describes an application for IV-D services as “a written document provided by the State which… is signed by the individual applying for IV-D services.” Previously, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) interpreted this rule strictly as requiring the application to be a paper copy with a written signature.
In light of advances in technology and legal trends exemplified by recent Federal laws such as the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) and the Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA), OCSE now believes that States may accept electronic signatures on applications for services. However, States must consider if there are any State laws that may prohibit this practice. States should perform their own analysis to determine whether electronic signatures are appropriate, including assessing the possibility of fraudulent practices, such as false applications. States should also consider the possibility of data breaches and the capacity of systems to handle large volumes of applications.
The Government Paperwork Elimination Act discusses one approach to how an agency might analyze the appropriateness of using electronic signatures. According to the GPEA, agencies could make decisions on the use of electronic signatures by determining whether the use is practicable. To be practicable, there must be no statutory or regulatory program rules which prohibit the use of electronic signatures; the electronic signatures must be reliable; and their use must not involve a significant risk of fraud.
For information on how States may assess the risks, costs, and benefits of using electronic signatures, please see guidance provided to Federal agencies in Appendix II to OMB Circular No. A-130. Please note, this OMB circular is only applicable to Federal agencies, and is provided to States only as a resource.
cc: ACF/OCSE Regional Program Managers
Tribal IV-D Directors