PINOLE -- Contra Costa County is the first in the state to partner with a money wire service to give those who owe child support a new way to make payments.

The county's Child Support Services division is working with MoneyGram, a money transfer company, to allow parents who have child support obligations to pay with cash even if they don't have bank accounts. There are 120 MoneyGram locations in Contra Costa County alone and 39,000 throughout the country, in places like Walmart, CVS and grocery stores. Which means that even parents out of state now have an easier way to pay support as well, said Linda Dippel, the county's Child Support Services director and founder of the project.

"What I wanted to do was be able to give people options.," Dippel said. "Maybe they might be embarrassed coming into the office and paying $20 but would be comfortable going to their local MoneyGram location."

The cost is $1.99 for each MoneyGram payment. In support of Child Support Awareness Month, the county support services office is picking up the tab for parents in August.

The low price is worth it to Perfecto Gervacio of Pinole, who made his first MoneyGram child support payment Saturday at a Lucky Supermarket.

"It's accessible to everyone, everywhere, and you can find it all over the place," said Gervacio, who was making a payment for three of his children. "The accessibility of it is the main thing, and $1.99 is not that much."


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To give as many options as possible to those who need to pay is the force behind this whole effort. Often if people are given the opportunity they will pay, Dippel said. That's why years ago she fought to have a drive-thru window and drop-off box installed at the child support services building in Martinez.

"We receive over $1 million in payments locally in our office in Martinez," she said. "So we have 200 people who come by each month to drop off a payment because they don't bank in a conventional manner. And if you were driving out from Richmond or Antioch, it might make more sense to pay $1.99 rather than the $4 a gallon for gas."

Dippel's office has a caseload of 30,000 and collects $64 million a year for families all over California. More than 20 percent of residents in the county don't have a bank account, and Dippel guesses that percentage is likely even higher for the parents her offices deals with, she said.

"Those who are self-employed or those who may be working seasonally this a great opportunity for them to have an easy way to pay child support," she said.

Already the county has had 36 payments through MoneyGram in less than two weeks, she said.

"We have people who haven't paid in years be one of those 36 who have just now made a payment for the first time," Dippel said.

Contra Costa County is the pilot program for the state but Dippel believes within the next three months many other counties will begin accepting payments through MoneyGram. Other states such as Oklahoma and Texas have been using the service for awhile. Texas, for example, receives $5.4 million per month through the wire money service.

"We are hoping to surpass that in California," she said. "I would love to see in two years, us receiving $10 million a month through MoneyGram."

Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617.