Celebrating Illinois Child Support Reform

Niya Kelly, Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, provides an update on child support reform in Illinois

Last month, the 102nd Illinois General Assembly passed the Second FY 2023 Budget Implementation Act (SB 1720). This legislation includes language to end the twenty-six-year-old antiquated policy of retaining child support collected on behalf of families receiving public benefits. Illinois’ Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) caseloads have steadily declined since the program’s inception and the program has historically been underutilized both because of the hoops families must jump through, and the low monthly grant amounts. 

Under circumstances where the family is not receiving assistance, when a noncustodial parent pays child support, the state passes through the total amount to the parent in the household with the child to support the child’s needs. But, alongside the low grant amount, custodial parents receiving TANF are required by federal law to participate in child support enforcement and assign their rights to any monies collected over to the state and federal government, as “recoupment.” For families living in extreme poverty, every dollar counts. 

In 2020, Illinois spent only $51 million of the $1.2 billion in overall TANF program funds on cash assistance. Meanwhile, while non-custodial parents paid over $56.6 million in child support, Illinois  kept more than $54 million and passed on a mere $2.4 million to the intended families. Families on TANF live below the federal poverty level and often struggle to meet their basic needs. Chicago Coalition for the Homeless alongside Heartland Alliance worked over the last year to end this practice, and Leader Marcus Evans, Jr (D-33rd) in the House and Senator Adriane Johnson (D-30th) advocated tirelessly to pass this legislation, which will go into effect July 1, 2024. With the passage of SB1720, Illinois will join California, New Mexico, Colorado, and Minnesota in ensuring child support paid goes to supporting children.

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