Families who count on the provincial Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) to help collect payments such as child support can now use electronic banking and pre-authorized debits, Justice Minister Andrew Swan announced.
"We want to make it as easy as possible for families relying on our help to get the money that's owed to them and for payors to meet their obligations to their children and families," said Swan.
The MEP protects the interests of children by enforcing maintenance orders and agreements, he said.
The service improvements came online with a new computer system called M3P. MEP used to rely on the postal system to deliver payments that are often made through personal cheques. Sometimes personal cheques are not honoured when they are deposited. Now payments can be disbursed in real time within 24 hours of being received by the program.
The program can also accept guaranteed funds from debtors electronically. The new system allows for the setup of automatic withdrawals from bank accounts. Recipients can have payments deposited directly into their bank accounts, making the whole process faster and easier.
Starting in the spring, the new system will also let the MEP charge a late payment penalty to those who do not pay on the dates the court ordered. This payment will go to the recipient.
"The fact is, a late payment can do a lot of damage to a family. It could mean the difference between putting a meal on the table or having to go without," said Swan. "By taking this step, we're putting an emphasis on the accountability of those needing to make the payments and sending them a message that they will be penalized if they don't follow court orders."
The system also supports the introduction of a new interactive voice response (IVR) system. It provides more current and detailed information to clients about account balances, payments made and owed, and the enforcement actions in place. The IVR will also let clients get some of the most frequently requested forms at any time without having to wait to speak with a MEP representative.