New York City Agency Hoards $72 Million In Child Support Payment Monies

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Even though the agency has failed to disburse millions of dollars in child support payment to the rightful beneficiaries in a timely manner, the agency's head, Pardus-Abbadessa, the Deputy Commissioner, has been urging staff to work harder on collecting even more money from non-custody parents for child support, adding to the undisbursed accumulated funds.

[Exclusive: Black Star News Investigation]

City Agency Holds Over $70 Million Entitled To Parents In Child Support Payments

A City agency has failed to disburse millions of dollars in child support payments that have already been collected and should have been either disbursed to parents who have won custody of children in family court proceedings or returned as refunds to non-custody parents for overpayments, The Black Star News has learned.

The monies have accumulated over the last few years and exceeded $70 million, records obtained by this newspaper show.

Thousands or tens of thousands of parents who have won custody of their children and are entitled to court-mandated child support payments from non-custody parents are each owed thousands of dollars as a result of the chronically slow disbursement, according to agency insiders familiar with the backlog, and records show.

This means that even at a time when families across the nation are suffering from the burden of the recession, a New York City agency is sitting atop a mountain of money that they are entitled to--in some cases monies that should have been disbursed years ago-- either as child support payments or refunds. The agency is called the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE)--it's a unit of Human Resources Administration (HRA).

In some cases, non-custody parents who have continued making payments after the children have been emancipcated --by coming of age for example-- are also owed thousands of dollars in refunds, according to people familiar with the matter and records show.

In one case, records reviewed by The Black Star News show, one father is owed a refund of at least  $4,242.48 by OCSE. The agency has yet to notify this father that the child has now come of age and not entitled to child support. It's not clear how many parents have been overpaying. "I would suggest that every parent involved in the Family Court system go to court and carefully review records of their case," said an insider at OCSE. "Clearly, many of them are not being notified by the agency."

Frances Pardus-Abbadessa, who is the Deputy Commissioner did not return a phone message left by The Black Star.  Frank Olton and Asstistant Deputy Commissioner also did not return a call.

Additionally, the agency's Public Information Director, Connie Ress did not return phone messages. The agency also did not respond to questions e-mailed to a spokesperson, including whether Mayor Michael Bloomberg was aware of the millions of dollars in the stalled payments, by publication deadline.

Documents obtained by The Black Star News show that even though the agency has failed to disburse millions of dollars in child support payments to the rightful beneficiaries in a timely manner, the agency's head, Pardus-Abbadessa, the Deputy Commissioner, has been urging staff to work harder on collecting even more money from non-custody parents for child support, adding to the undisbursed accumulated funds.

In a memorandum sent to all OCSE staff members dated February 12, 2010, Pardus-Abbadessa said the agency's goal was to reduce the $72 million in "undistributed collections" from 2009 to $60 million "by the end of 2010."

Pardus-Abbadessa, in her memo says total collections from non-custody parents should increase this year to $691.5 million an increase of 2% from last year's $677.9 million. She wants total collections to increase by 14% for a total of $772,820,394 by the year 2013, according to the memo.

"It's bad enough that it's so difficult to collect child support payment from non-custody parents," the OCSE insider adds. "Then to learn that the City is sitting on these millions of dollars?"

Pardus-Abbadessa doesn't seem to be in a hurry to disburse payments to parents waiting for child support checks or to non-custody parents who have overpaid.

She wants the $72 million fund now sitting in an agency-controlled account to shrink to $34.3 million by the end of 2013, which is three years from now. This doesn't take into account the fact that her agency will be collecting millions of dollars more which will likely will not be timely disbursed, judging by OCSE's current performance.

"Meeting these goals will improve the services that we provide to the families of New York City that need our help," Pardus-Abbadessa wrote in the memo to OCSE employees, without a hint of irony.


"Speaking Truth To Empower."

milton@blackstarnews.com
For free classes in guerrilla journalism taught by Black Star News Publisher Milton Allimadi, call (347) 257-7330 or just show up with a pen and notebook or laptop every Monday from 6PM-8PM at True South Bookstore at 492 in Brooklyn's BedStuy neighborhood.

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