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Amnesty available for missed support payments

August 01, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

WASHINGTON COUNTY

marlob@herald-mail.com

For the 318 people with outstanding warrants for nonpayment of child support in Washington County, the first two weeks of August could present a golden opportunity.

A statewide amnesty program - the second since 2000 - will be in effect from today to Aug. 13.

The program, "Make a Difference for Your Future and Your Child's Future," could mean more money to help children in need, said David Engle, director of the Washington County Department of Social Services.

"This time, we are also working with Virginia and Washington, D.C.," Engle said.

Parents who owe back child support may come in during those two weeks and negotiate their payments. They also may have their warrants lifted.

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The 318 warrants are on file with the Washington County Sheriff's Department, Engle said.

"If these people are stopped for a traffic offense or even a seat-belt violation, the warrant will show up," he said.

During the amnesty period, parents with active warrants or parents who have had their driver's licenses suspended due to a child support case have an opportunity to work on their back child support without fear of arrest.

"This money is for the children, regardless of the situation between the parents," Engle said. "It is also a family reunification effort, and it keeps people off welfare."

In 2000, when Maryland acted alone, 13 Washington County residents took advantage of the amnesty and paid a total of about $8,000 in back child support.

Engle said during the amnesty period, the DSS office at 122 N. Potomac St. will extend its hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and will be open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

"We want people to come in prepared to pay something," Engle said. "We need to see a demonstration of good faith."

The child support caseload in Washington County is 5,606, Engle said. The collection rate in Washington County is 75 percent, compared with a statewide rate of 62 percent.

For more information about the amnesty program, visit the DSS office or call 1-800-332-6347.

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