Memphis fathers push for change after stimulus garnished for child support

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Stimulus checks have become a lifeline for many people trying to make it through the pandemic.

But Bart Frazier learned quickly that the money you expect may not be coming.

“There is a crisis going on right now and I need that money to pay bills with,” Frazier said.

Frazier, a dad who is paying back child support, never got his first $1,200 stimulus.

“They took that $1,200 child support. They took that,” he said.

He did get the second $600 from the government, but he worries any more stimulus may again not come to him.

“There’s a chance of this with third check if we get it. It’s a chance of child support taking that. And I just feel that is really unfair for people like myself,” Frazier said.
  
He admits he got behind in payments and was put in arrears, but he says his daughter is now over 18.

“She’s 19, she’s not in school. So therefore the money doesn’t go to my daughter’s mother or my daughter, it goes straight to the state. And I feel that, because of this pandemic that has caused a crisis, where I need that money to pay bills with, you know,” Frazier said.

Frazier said he hasn’t worked in months and he thinks the government can be more lenient  especially during a pandemic.

“I feel like just the arrears can wait,” he said. “I know eventually I’m obligated to pay that. And I will. But as far as now you know because of this pandemic is gonna cause a crisis, and I need that money, you know, and I’m sure there’s a lot of other non-custodial parents in my situation, who also agree with me that they need that money too.”

The Tennessee Department of Human Services, which handles child support, said the decision to intercept the first round of stimulus payments for child support was made at the federal level.

The second round of  stimulus was not intercepted for child support arrears, and as for any third payment, right now they are not sure what requirements it will have.

But on the other side of child support are often another parent and children also dealing with finances. Attorney Williams Jones represents many of those families.

“The stimulus I know was supposed to help individuals during this time, but you have to think about that mother that didn’t have help throughout the years,” Jones said.

While Jones is not involved in Frazier’s case, he has seen how families suffer when child support isn’t paid.

“It doesn’t make a difference that the child is 19 now. That money is owed to her in the past and she is entitled to it. The government is just giving it to her because he finally has some money,” Jones said. “I am actually kind of disappointed that they carved it out that we can’t garnish from the second and possibly the third check. I think it was good for single moms and single dads who are trying to raise kids alone.”

Frazier is hoping someone in Washington will make some exceptions in special cases where intercepted funds are not going directly to parents and children.

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