Kansas gets $31.8 million from federal program

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A U.S. Treasury Department program that helps states collect debts from taxpayers brought $31.8 million to Kansas last year, and that number could grow in the future.

The Treasury Offset Program helps recovers money owed by people who don’t pay their taxes or cheat on welfare. Kansas plans to join part of the program that also helps states recover improperly paid unemployment benefits, The Wichita Eagle reported. States also help collect on federal debts through the program, although at a much lower rate.

“It’s a great way to help make sure obligations to the state are paid by the folks who owe them,” Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes said.

The program generally can recover all of a person’s tax refund, garnish vendor payments, take part of federal employees’ salaries and capture up to 15 percent of a person’s Social Security check.

Since Congress authorized the program in 1996, it has recovered $33.5 billion for participating states, according to an annual state-by-state report released last week.

Most of the money Kansas collects through the program is from delinquent child support, which made up $23 million of the $31.8 million sent to the state last year. The state also received $8 million in unpaid and underpaid state income taxes and $800,000 from overpayments to recipients in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps.

Kansas is working on joining part of the program that recovers unemployment benefits that shouldn’t have been paid, which has brought in millions of dollars to other states, according to David Saltiel, deputy assistant commissioner for debt management in the Bureau of Fiscal Service.

The process has been slow because the application involves changes in several state departments, Kansas Department of Labor spokeswoman Cassie Sparks said.

“We’ve gotten some money, but we have not fully implemented it yet,” Sparks said, adding the state should recover some income from it in the next year.



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