An upcoming workshop could help local residents who owe child support payments to the state find ways to help themselves, their families and the taxpaying public.
The workshop will focus on the state’s Compromise of Arrears Program, designed for eligible parents whose children were on public assistance and who cannot afford to pay their past due child support repayments to the state. COAP will help them pay in full or in part what they owe to the state – some of the amount due could even be forgiven.
“COAP is an outreach effort for the sole purpose of educating our customers and at the same time recouping federal and/or state assistance dollars,” said Susanne Rizo, director/attorney of the Eastern Sierra Child Support Services’ Bishop office.
The Eastern Sierra Department of Child Support Services, which serves Inyo and Mono counties, will hold its second annual COAP workshop from 4-5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12 in the Bishop City Council chambers, 377 W. Line St. “We hope to bring people back through the doors,” Rizo said. Parents are encouraged to attend the COAP workshop to find out how to cope with their arrears, she added.
At the workshop, parents can find out if they are COAP eligible and what the program’s requirements are. Eligible parents can begin, or even complete, the compromise agreement application process. The applications spell out proposed terms of repayment, either in a lump sum or in monthly payments, Rizo said.
Child Support Specialist Marylou Sowa is usually notified within a month whether the state will accept each compromise agreement application, Rizo said. “If all payments are made according to the agreement, any balance owed to the government that exceeds the agreed-upon payment amount can be forgiven.”
To complete the compromise agreement application process, parents usually need “one-on-one help with the process because there are so many different criteria that are pretty specific” and that’s where the workshop really helps, said Staff Services Analyst Gina McKinzey. “Everyone’s situation is so unique; it helps to have someone to talk to and to guide you.”
Child Support Supervisor/Training Coordinator Emily Casabian, who along with Rizo and Sowa are facilitating the COAP workshop, said Tuesday’s hour-long outreach will consist of an educational presentation in which participants can learn about COAP eligibility requirements and the application process. Child Support Services staff will be available to help participants decide if they want to apply and, if so, to determine the terms of an affordable repayment plan.
Casabian said she encourages parents to bring proof of their assets, expenses and income, which are required to complete the application process.
Rizo said parents in arrears who cannot attend the COAP workshop should call the Eastern Sierra Child Support Agency toll-free at (866) 901-3212 or visit agency offices.
The Inyo office, located at 230 W. Line St. in Bishop, is open weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., closed noon-1 p.m. Hours for Spanish-only-speakers are 9 a.m.-noon on Wednesdays.
The Mono office, located at 452 Old Mammoth Rd. in Mammoth Lakes, is open 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Hours for Spanish-only-speakers are 2-4 p.m. on Thursdays.
Eastern Sierra Department of Child Support Services also provides services that include: locating a parent; establishing paternity; establishing, modifying and/or enforcing court orders for child support; payments; and employer income withholding orders. The agency’s new websites – http://www.inyocounty.us/  for Inyo County residents and http://www.monocounty.ca.gov/  for Mono County – provide access to these services 24 hours a day, year-round.