Giving Compass' Take:

• Requiring parents to cooperate with the child-support program to receive SNAP benefits is extremely expensive and ineffective. 

• What is a better way to encourage child-support payments? Why is the program in place in some places? 

• Learn about an effective program encouraging child-support payments.

Congress will soon consider a proposal to require parents applying for food assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to participate in the federally supervised, state-administered child-support-enforcement program. This would risk reducing food assistance for households with children and raise state and federal administrative costs, with little payoff in increased child-support collections.

States already have the option to require parents to cooperate with the child-support program to receive SNAP benefits but only six states do. This is largely because the policy is very expensive to implement but unlikely to boost child-support collections significantly. Seven of the 10 states that initially adopted the option rescinded it when it failed to be cost-effective, a 2014 study commissioned by the Utah legislature found.

Imposing the requirement nationally would cost an estimated $11 billion over the next decade to implement, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. To put this cost in perspective, it is about twice the annual budget of the child-support program.

One reason the proposed mandate wouldn't be cost-effective is that most single parents receiving SNAP benefits already participate in the child-support program; almost 70 percent of SNAP participants eligible for child support had an open case in the child-support program, the Utah study found. Other families received child support under a private court order or agreement. And research finds that more than 80 percent of fathers without a child-support order provide support to their children without program intervention.

Mandating child-support-program participation would force child-support agencies to create a new bureaucratic infrastructure to identify SNAP recipients and manage, track and monitor these cases.

Read the full article about food stamps and child support by Vicki Turetsky at Governing.