Thousands of Missourians received a $1.2 million gift from the state the day before Thanksgiving. It seems the state mistakenly double-issued child support checks to 7,500 women and the total tops $1.2 million. How can that happen you ask? That's a good question.
The state is pointing the finger of blame at the firm that processes the child support checks. And the firm is trying to point the finger back at the state. In the meantime, state officials managed to halt about $250,000 of the overpayments that were directly deposited in bank accounts. But that leaves a cool million bucks that the state will most likely never recover.
In an era of state budget cutbacks, the child support snafu is especially painful. But if I had to guess I would say most of that mistaken cash is already in the hands of Wal-Mart and other retailers as the Christmas season approaches.
The company that processes child support payments sent checks out for payment the day before Thanksgiving and then, for some reason, repeated the check list the day after Thanksgiving. That means that thousands of Missouri families picked up two checks last week with no explanation from the state. Now can you honestly see those checks being returned to the state? Don't hold your breath.
Here's another point to ponder. The check processor - a Georgia firm - is paid over $7 million annually to process the checks and hopefully to assure they are correct. For that amount of money, mistakes are clearly unacceptable.
Most parents may not actually have recognized the mistake. Child support checks are not always mailed on a regular basis and indeed, sometimes those payments do increase as the holidays approach. Combine these two factors and up pops an extra check. The recipient gets no explanation for the added bonus so the checks get spent. For the state to now mount a recovery effort will be difficult at best.
State government is an imperfect machine. Examples abound constantly. But for now, state officials at the highest level should explain to Missourians why the state budget has been hit with this million dollar mistake. And plans should be put into place to assure it will not be repeated.
And to the thousands of homes who received a holiday surprise - say thank you. Santa Claus came early this year. Ho! Ho! Ho!