Child Support Office to Streamline Online Portal for Employers

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By Ben Kegley

The federal child-support office plans to simplify and streamline its online portal with a universal home page that would serve as a single entry point for employers.

The Office of Child Support Enforcement plans to introduce the new page July 29, confirmed Sherri Grigsby, manager of the federal child support office's employer services team.

The online portal supports the office's effort to collect child support payments by providing employers, insurers and financial institutions a secure platform to send and receive information about child support cases.

About 214 employers use the portal, Grigsby told Bloomberg BNA. Companies large and small registered to use the system, she said, adding that there was no standard profile of employers using the portal.

Lump Sums, Termination Reports

A majority of states have access to the lump-sum reporting and electronic termination online portal, also known as eTerm, Grigsby said. Forty-six states use the electronic termination function, and 45 states use the lump-sum reporting function. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have access to the lump-sum reporting and electronic termination functions, while Vermont and Rhode Island do not use either function of the online portal.

The online portal implemented lump-sum reporting in 2011 and electronic terminations reporting in 2014. The online portal was designed to streamline the process for reporting lump-sum payments and electronic terminations. The benefits of using the portal are centralization and standardization, Grigsby said. Rather than contacting each state individually, employers may use the portal, which then sends information to other states, she said.

Home Depot Inc. is among the employers using the online system. “This is a wonderful application that is used by Home Depot at least twice a year,” said Tequila Milner, senior garnishment analyst at the home-improvement retailer. “It has made our process for reporting lump sums a lot easier.”

By using the lump-sum reporting function, Milner said her office was able to receive faster responses from agencies while eliminating the need to send letters via traditional mail.

Fifteen states require employers to report lump-sum payments. For employers, the online portal is an efficient way for reporting lump sums, especially if the employer has employees in multiple states that require lump-sum reporting, Grigsby said.

Employers must submit an application with the OCSE to access the portal, which may be used for lump-sum and electronic-termination reporting. Registration and use of the portal are free.

When a payroll professional registers an employer, the last four numbers of the payroll professional's Social Security number are to be included on the application along with the employer's identification number. The office must verify that the employee applying for registration works for that employer. A confirmation link then is sent to the employer to complete the application.

The OCSE, aware of the sensitivity of the information it collects, improved security by dropping a previous requirement for the full Social Security number on the application.

Additionally, the OCSE plans to expand other functions within the online portal. In the fall, employers would be allowed to provide more information to streamline the receipt of income withholding orders for child support and the ability to process the orders, Grigsby said.

Other upgrades to the employer services application within the portal are to include new data-entry fields for employers to provide business address information and other aspects of contact information, indicate whether third-party providers process any aspects relevant to child support and affirm whether they interact with professional employer organizations, Grigsby said May 11 at the American Payroll Association's 2016 Congress in Nashville, Tenn.

Promoting the Portal

The OCSE promotes the portal through online publications available on its website and by attending payroll conferences, where employers may view demonstrations of the portal, Grigsby said.

States also promote the online portal with a link on their websites. Some states, such as California, have an employer outreach program to encourage use of the portal, she said.

The OCSE also gathers feedback through an employer symposium, Grigsby said. The symposium allows the office to identify concerns and develop solutions, she said.

For example, a symposium May 5 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., generated a lot of discussion about how to make the process easier for employers, Grigsby said. The main issues were standardization, automation and streamlining, she said.

The office plans to release a report on the discussions and developments resulting from the symposium, Grigsby said. The report, expected to be published in the fall, would be available on the Office of Child Support Enforcement website.

For More Information

For more information, see PAG's “Federal and State Child Support Laws” chapter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Kegley in Washington at bkegley_ic@bna.com To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Trimarchi at mtrimarchi@bna.com.

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