Federal cuts endanger child protection and child support

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Ramsey County will lose a quarter of its child protection and child support enforcement workers because Congress has slashed funding, local officials and union leaders say. The result of a $90 million cut in human services funding will be felt across the state, they predicted.

“We will lose 45 people – 25 percent of our staff” in child protection and child support enforcement because of an $8.2 million reduction in funding, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said at a news conference Thursday. “That’s 600 families per case worker that won’t be receiving the child support services at the level they deserve . . . Not as many cases will be investigated when child abuse is suspected.”

Gaertner was joined by Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt and AFSCME Council 5 Director Eliot Seide – whose union represents county workers – in calling on the state to use some of the budget surplus to plug the hole created by the federal cuts.

“Every dollar invested in child support collection produces a $5 return to families who would otherwise require public assistance,” Seide said. “Cutting child support enforcement is penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

AFSCME member John Ewaldt, a child support enforcement agent for the past eight years, said he and his co-workers are stretched to the limit and can’t handle the larger caseloads that will result from staff cuts.

“I take pride in keeping children out of poverty,” he said. “I take pride in helping families to be self-sufficient. My work saves taxpayers money. Please give me the resources to do my job well.”

Reinhardt called the funding cuts “devastating to children.” Each year, the county receives some 30,000 reports of suspected child abuse, she said, and is already hard-pressed to follow up on every case.

The $90 million cut in human service funding to Minnesota was part of the Deficit Reduction Act recently approved by Congress. The Democrats in Minnesota’s Congressional delegation were joined by Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-3rd Dist., in opposing the legislation. Republican U.S. Senator Norm Coleman and Republican Representatives Mark Kennedy, John Kline and Gil Gutknecht voted for the cuts.

SF 3155 and HF 3222, state legislation to fill the funding gap, has been introduced but has not yet received a hearing.

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