New York lottery officials announced Tuesday that the state has taken nearly $5 million from thousands of lottery jackpots before they were released to winners and applied the money to owed child-support payments or to recover a portion of welfare given to winners over the last decade.
The move is part of the state's Lottery Intercept Program that has diverted nearly $10 million in winnings to child support, and more than $25 million in winnings toward public assistance since it was adopted in 1995 by the Pataki administration.
"If someone who has failed to pay child support has the good fortune to win a lottery prize, we want to also ensure that their children share in that good fortune and get what is legally and morally entitled to them," said Gov. George Pataki. "It is also reasonable to require former public assistance recipients, who enjoy a financial windfall thanks to the lottery, to pay back at least a portion of what they were given in assistance."
Last year, one winner from New York City won $175,000 in a lottery game and the state took out $31,000. That's how much the winner had collected over the previous decade in social service benefits, said Michael Hayes of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
In the fiscal year that ended March 31, $711,660 in winnings from 1,057 people were intercepted for child support. Another $4.2 million in public assistance repayments were taken from 5,102 winners. In that year, an average of $771 was taken from jackpots of all sizes that were intercepted by the program and sent to families for child support and to the state's general fund for repayment of social services, he said.
The 2004-05 collections were increases over 2003 when $510,893 was sent to child support and $3.7 million was repaid from welfare checks.
The state Labor Department's Child Support Intercept Program removes owed child support from unemployment insurance checks and sends it to families. That resulted in $37.5 million in 2004 sent to families owed child support, for a total of $315 million in lottery windfalls sent to families since 1995.