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Computers speed support collection

New computer systems at the Lawrence County Child Support Enforcement Agency will strengthen collections, officials said.

Wednesday, August 11, 1999

New computer systems at the Lawrence County Child Support Enforcement Agency will strengthen collections, officials said.

The CSEA has been switching thousands of case files from older computers to a new state-required system – Support Enforcement Tracking System, or SETS – for about a year and a half.

A November deadline is nearing, but executive director Susan Brown is confident the agency will make it.

And that means benefits to those residents owed child support and a crackdown on those not paying, Ms. Brown said.

"Our old system did not alert a case worker about non-payments," she said. "Once we get converted, I think the collection rate will go up about 25 percent."

Last week, the Lawrence County Board of Commissioners approved overtime for about 25 CSEA staff to make the switch happen sooner.

Ms. Brown foresees after hours work and some weekend work when the agency is not open to public.

About 48 percent of the CSEA’s 7,000 cases has been converted to SETS, although the total number of cases is now about 5,000 because many were able to be closed during the data transfer, Ms. Brown said.

Employees must transfer at least another 2,500 cases or more onto a 24-page form by looking up information on old computers and paperwork, she said. That data must then be input into SETS by Nov. 1.

"The state was fined for not having all the counties all done and now they want to see a good faith effort," Ms. Brown said. "That’s why Lawrence County is taking a pro-active stance (with overtime)."

Once the new system is fully loaded, case workers can access credit checks, track payment histories and link with all other counties to find out where a deadbeat parent might be living, she said.

SETS also can monitor banks and other government agencies across the country.

There is no doubt it will improve collections, although cases will still end up in court, Ms. Brown said.

The CSEA is also planning a public relations campaign, after the SETS work is complete.

By making people more aware of what’s required by child support law, then those collections can be reinforced, she said.