What Child Support Participants Need to Know About COVID-19 Stimulus Payments

The Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed on March 27, 2020 to assist the economy due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing stimulus payments to eligible Americans, among other actions.

Those who filed a single tax return with an income of $75,000 or less would be eligible for up to $1,200, and couples who filed jointly with a combined income of $150,000 or less can receive $2,400. Payments are reduced for parents who earned more than those amounts and are completely phased out for single filers who earn more than $99,000 and joint filers who earn more than $198,000. Families will get an additional $500 for each child under 17.

The CARES Act does not, however, exempt stimulus payments from interception if the would-be recipient owes overdue child support. This means that California parents who owe past due child support will receive notification from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that stimulus payments will be sent to the California State Disbursement Unit to cover unpaid child support. In addition, citizens who owe past due child support who would have received state tax refunds will have those refunds intercepted by the Franchise Tax Board to offset their debt.

On April 16, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-52-20, which allows for intercepted federal stimulus payments to apply to support owed to families first, and to government owed arrears, or overdue payments, only after the family is paid, a reversal of the previous reimbursement priority.

If married couples filed jointly and a spouse filed an injured spouse claim, half of the total stimulus payment will be sent to that spouse, and the other half will be intercepted for past-due child support. Due to a processing error from the IRS, some couples got both portions of the stimulus payments intercepted. On April 22, the IRS addressed the issue, and those who were missing half of the stimulus payment will receive it once the problem is fixed. For more information from the IRS about stimulus payments, visit their stimulus website page.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, California Child Support Services has stopped automated Bank Levies and Driver’s License suspensions as of March 17. If parents are notified that their driver’s license has been suspended after that date, they can contact their caseworker to get the suspension reversed until further notice.

Parents paying child support should be aware that child support obligations are still due and child support orders remain the same unless the amount is modified by a court order. If needed, parents should contact the child support agency handling their case to discuss their circumstances and request a review and adjustment, also referred to as a modification. The effective date of the modification is now the date of filing, so parents need to contact the agency immediately.

For more information on COVID-19 and the CARES Act, visit the Frequently Asked Questions on the California Child Support Services COVID-19 webpage.

To contact California Child Support Services during the emergency office closures, the best option is the online case service platform, Customer Connect. Other options include texting, emailing through Customer Connect, or calling 1-866-901-3212 (access in certain areas is dependent on county closures). Many offices are beginning to reopen, and  the status of all county and regional offices can be checked on the California Child Support Services website.