Use of Social Security numbers OK'd

Posted: Friday, February 23, 2001

JUNEAU -- Faced with the loss of $70 million in federal aid, the state Senate voted Thursday to retain a set of laws that help child support enforcement officials track deadbeat parents using Social Security numbers.

The package of laws was an offshoot of the national welfare reform law passed several years ago. Because welfare reform would eventually move millions of people off public assistance, Congress wanted to beef up child support enforcement.

So it linked federal welfare grants and funding for child support enforcement to requirements that the state collect and share information -- including Social Security numbers.

But when the Alaska Legislature enacted these changes, it attached sunset clauses so the laws would lapse this year, said Deputy Revenue Commissioner Larry Persily. If that happened, the state could lose the federal money.

'This year it would add up to about $70 million if you lost them,'' Persily said. Most of the money would be the federal government's share of welfare.

The bill retains the requirement to submit Social Security numbers on applications for drivers licenses and professional licenses and continues a requirement for employers to submit the numbers of new hires.

Having the numbers allows various kinds of data sharing between states that helps child support enforcement workers track deadbeat parents who have moved far away from their children, Persily said.

''In fiscal year 2000 we collected a record $85 million in child support. we're on track to exceed $90 million this year,'' Persily said.

The bill passed 14-4 after Sen. Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell, voiced concerns that the bill follows a widespread pattern of abusing the Social Security number, which was originally intended solely for use with the national retirement insurance system.

''To have the $70 million carrot hanging over our heads, and all we have to give up is Alaskans' privacy in their Social Security system, is a draconian choice,'' Taylor said.

Although the bill passed, the Republican-controlled Senate did add one provision Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles didn't seek -- another set of sunset dates in 2006.

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