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Families in Summit County reunited with more than $100,000 of unclaimed child support money

Families in Summit County reunited with more than $100,000 of unclaimed child support money
Posted at 5:25 PM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-04 19:13:56-05

AKRON, Ohio — The Summit County Prosecutor’s Office is working to reunite families with their unclaimed child support funds. More than $100,000 has been given back to families who didn’t even know it existed, including one Akron woman who is now nearly $10,000 richer.

For years, child support payments helped Nichelle Brown provide for her four kids.

“That was pretty much it because it wasn't a whole lot,” said Brown.

She said one day back in 2016 the payments just stopped. Her youngest child was only 16 at the time.

“I just assumed that it was over with and done. So I didn't try to pursue it or anything. I just left it at that,” said Brown.

That same year, she got into a car accident and had to go on disability. Not being able to work anymore made life even harder.

“It's like I have to budget everything. So I make sure that I don't live beyond my means. I just stay within my budget. That's it,” said Brown.

But just two weeks ago, Brown was contacted by the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office Child Support Enforcement Agency telling her she had a lump sum of child support money waiting for her that she was totally unaware of.

“It was money that she should have had, but didn't. So she had to struggle extra while raising her children,” said community outreach prosecutor Tania Nemer.

Nemer said the mix-up happened when the state changed the company it uses to collect child support payments.

“When the state of Ohio switched companies, there were different cards that were issued. When that happened, they were able to send letters to everybody saying, ‘Hey, look, putting you on notice there's different cards, make sure you activate them,’’ said Nemer. “Some families may not have gotten those letters, some families may have just maybe seen it and it's in a blank envelope, disregarded it because it's unidentified, much like a bank card. And so they didn't know.”

Nemer said about 20,000 families were affected statewide with about 1,000 in Summit County. There were 700 cases where families had at least $100 waiting for them and since September they’ve found about 230 of them. Nemer said they sent letters and even utilized Facebook and other social media to find families.

“With the top 15 families that had the most money waiting for them, we were able to have one of our investigators look for these families and really look hard for them, not just sending letters, not just reaching out on on social media, but really investigate where they are to let them know, ‘Hey, there's there's a good amount of money here waiting for you and your family,’” said Nemer.

Of those 15, the prosecutor’s office has found 12 families who had a combined total of nearly $100,000 in child support money waiting for them.

Brown’s family was one of those 12. She received more than $9,000 in unclaimed child support money.

“I was surprised because I was not expecting that at all, but I mean, I'm happy and I'm trying to do the right thing with it,” said Brown.

Since getting the money, Brown has been happy to be able to buy things she needs for herself and her grandchildren, but most of all she’s happy she doesn’t have to worry as much about making ends meet.

“I feel stress free because I was stressed out because I mean, I had bills, bills, bills. I had to pay this, pay that, go get this, go get that—but now that I can do it all on my own. I feel good,” said Brown.

The prosecutor’s office has been able to reunite one family with $20,000 of unclaimed funds, and two more who each had $14,000. Nemer said they’re proud of the work they’re doing.

“We’re very happy for the families that we were able to find because we put a lot of time into finding them to make sure that they have the money that is theirs, and Nichelle is one of them. She raised four kids single-handedly on her own as a single mom. And they're doing well. And they're doing well because of her and her hard work,” said Nemer. “So we're really happy that that money can finally be in her hands. And she can do what she needs to do with that money.”

Summit County’s Child Support Enforcement Agency is still searching for hundreds of more families who might have money waiting for them. Anyone who thinks they fit that criteria should call 1-855-279-2744 or the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office Child Support Enforcement Agency at 330-643-2765 for more information.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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