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Cost of Texas Child Support Overhaul Doubles to $420 Million

The state's sidelined child support overhaul is now back on track, but its cost has more than doubled to $420 million and it is now two years behind schedule.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton during a press conference announcing a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies requiring Texas public schools to open restrooms and locker rooms to both sexes on May 25, 2016.

The state's sidelined child support overhaul is now back on track, but its cost has more than doubled to $420 million and is now two years behind schedule.

"It's going to allow us to be the national leader in child support delivery," said Steve Pier, the attorney general's director of intergovernmental relations.  

In 2007 under then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s leadership, the AG’s office launched a $202 million plan to upgrade the system, including a $70 million contract with Accenture to design, develop and implement the project. Child support is a shared responsibility of states and the federal government, so the federal government agreed to pay two-thirds of the project’s costs.

Last year, the federal U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement halted payments to Texas for the nearly decade-old project after the AG's office and its partners — Accenture and the Texas Department of Information Resources — discovered more work was needed to upgrade the aging system that hosts the state's child support cases. Earlier this month, the federal agency announced it had unfrozen those funds after the Texas AG's office addressed its concerns.

Most of the cost increases are attributed to the servers needed to simultaneously host both the old and new system as the information is transferred from one to the other. 

Each month, another 5,000 new child support cases are added to the agency's workload.

Pier said the new price tag was much cheaper than starting over with a different contractor. Under the new contract signed on Friday, Accenture's portion of the project will increase to $145 million.  

Under the new plan for the project, Accenture has to meet a Dec. 3, 2018 launch date, or pay the state back $341,000 for every week late, Pier said.

Disclosure: Accenture has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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