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Berkeley’s Skinner unveils bill to overturn GOP child support law

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, has announced the “Child Support Reform Act,” which seeks to ensure that low-income families receive all the child support payments to which they are entitled. The act, Senate Bill 337, would overturn a decades-old law under which child-support payments meant for families who receive CalWORKs benefits go to the state rather than to the families and children.

“The Child Support Reform Act will right a historic wrong,” Skinner said. “Last year, more than 1.2 million California children living in or near poverty did not receive the full child support payments made by their parents. California must stop taking the lion’s share of support payments that rightfully belong to families and kids.”

Under a California law that dates back to the administration of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, when a non-custodial parent makes a child support payment to a parent and child who receive CalWORKs benefits, the payment doesn’t actually go to the custodial parent and child. Instead, all but $50 of it goes to the state. The rationale behind the law was that the state should be “reimbursed” for providing CalWORKs benefits to low-income families and children. It was also designed to discourage parents with children from going on welfare.

“Most people don’t realize that when a child support payment is made to a low-income child, all but $50 of it goes to the state,” said Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, which is co-sponsoring SB 337.

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