Gene Gammon Deputy County Attorney
STAFF MEMBERS of the new and larger Office of Recovery Services in Provo look over cases they are working on involving welfare fraud and abuse, and enforcement of child support obligations. From left are Eugene Gammon, deputy Utah County attorney assigned to the office; Melissa Finch of the State Department of Social Services, and Wayne Braithwaite, head of the child support section. Office of Recovery Services Begins Operations in Provo By JOSEPHINE ZIMMERMAN Much is heard today about welfare fraud and abuse, and parents who disappear and leave the state to support their children. Is anything being done about these situations? The answer is "yes," and the enterprise is highly successful. The Office of Recovery Services, a unit under the Utah State Department of Social Services, has opened a new office in Provo with a staff to carry out the six major functions of this business agency for collection. "This is one of the most successful agencies in the state," says Melissa Finch of the state office, reporting that for every dollar spent to run the program, $2.50 is returned to the taxpayers. The program began in 1975 and was federally mandated. As of Aug. 1, Eugene Gammon, deputy Utah County attorney, joined the office to take over enforcement of the state laws involved. In general, the collections fall into two basic categories: collection of child support, and collection of previously expended Social Service funds, Mrs. Finch reports. The collections and disbursements bureau investigates and collects either monies that have been received improperly, such as public assistance grants to recipients who are ineligible to receive them, or monies that have been advanced to clients in conjunction with Social Service programs, pending receipt of funds from federal or other state programs. Coop Education Week Planned The Utah Valley chambers of commerce, BYU, Utah Technical College , and the high schools of Utah Valley are joining in an observance of Utah Valley Cooperative Education Week, Sept. 19 to 25. A proclamation regarding the observance has been signed by the Utah County commission. During the week, a breakfast meeting will be held for employers, with more than 600 invitations being extended. Other activities include the following: The guidance and counseling personnel of the high schools in the county will be invited to an orientation meeting to inform them of cooperative education activities at the Utah Technical College and Brigham Young University. Each high school PTA organization will be contacted by guidance and counseling personnel of the school to place a presentation regarding cooperative education at the high schools, UTC and BYU on the agenda of a future PTA meeting so that parents can be informed of cooperative education opportunities. Each Chamber of Commerce will arrange appropriate publicity regarding the cooperative education The child support enforcement bureau investigates the whereabouts of absent parents, determines the parents' ability to support their children, and establishes orders for support, either through agreement with the parents or through the courts, then collects and disburses the support monies. "The law says this is the first bill an absent parent pays, but the absent parent usually has it at the bottom of the priority list," Mrs. Finch declared. Well qualified investigators are part of the staff to locate and work with absent parents. "There are 3000 such cases in Utah County and 20,000 in the state, and only about 20 percent of the parents are paying each month," Mrs. Finch stated. She pointed out that the Office of Recovery Services collected $3.2 million last year. This year's goal in both bureaus is $8 million. Collections made by the office have more than doubled since 1975, and they hope to double it again in 1978. Collections in the state in 1977 have been as follows: Child support $3,264,000, overpayments $299,700, liens $795,000, and all other $515,300, for a total of $4,875,200. In general, the office serves six major functions. The first is the enforcement of child support obligations. Absent parents whose families are receiving public assistance have a financial obligation to the state for the support of their children. This obligation can be enforced through the courts, if necessary. The office does not discriminate on the basis of sex with regard to absent parents, Mrs. Finch said, observing that about one percent are absent mothers. The second division is the non-public assistance program. Families not receiving public assistance may apply for child support collection or paternity determinate services. For a fee, the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement will legally enforce this obligation. Third responsibility of the office is to collect funds expended in support of Department of Social Service programs. These are monies recouped which have been expended for programs such as the Prisoner Release Program, Foster Care, and pending Supplemental Security Income cases. A parent - locator service is the fourth function carried put by the office. Federal and state records are available for locating an absent parent with a child support or paternal obligation. For a fee, the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement will access these records for location information. Investigation of welfare fraud and abuse is the fifth 'responsibility. This involves investigation of Medicaid, food stamp, and financial assistance fraud. Final responsibility of the office is the collection of monies erroneously disbursed in welfare programs. These are public funds which have been paid to inappropriate recipients of providers. The money is recovered either by voluntary repayment or through legal prosecution. The new Provo office, located at 1651 W. 820 N., is one of seven such offices in the state.