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States Would Have to Implement Drug Testing for Welfare Program Under Bill


A bill introduced in the House by Louisiana Republican Charles Boustany would require drug testing for anyone applying for or receiving benefits under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. A similar bill, proposed in the Senate by Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, died last year.

TANF, formerly known as welfare, provides cash assistance to low-income families with children. The Nation reports, 28 families out of every 1,000 in poverty receive benefits under the TANF program. The article notes that under this type of legislation, if a parent on public assistance has a drug addiction problem, the entire family could lose benefits.

According to the magazine, many states already have proposed some form of drug testing for recipients of TANF or other types of public assistance. The Florida legislature has passed a bill that requires drug testing for TANF recipients and Governor Rick Scott is expected to sign it, the magazine says.

16 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Ajax the Great
    Ajax the Great / June 8, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    If you want to turn a pothead into an alcoholic, this is probably the best way to do it. If you want you want even more hardcore drug addicts to turn to crime to support their habits, this is again the best way to do it. But if you actually want to help the poor, this is bad policy.

  2. joebanana / June 7, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    What an idea. Turn the people with problems into full time criminals. People are going to do what they have to, to get money and food, whether it’s going to the mailbox, or the corner store with a gun.

  3. Avatar of Patty
    Patty / May 17, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Again, we see a move to marginalize the population group with the least amount of power and resources. Poor women and children. If poor people are going to be penalized for a disease without first offering treatment for that disease then shame on those small minded politicians.

  4. Avatar of Dr. John Gardin
    Dr. John Gardin / May 16, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    It’s about time!!! The truth is that DHS rules in most States do not allow for ANY leveraging of those needing treatment to be identified and then treated. If there is a need for public treatment, then it should be created – in the meantime, there are natural negative consequences to drug use and this should be one of them.

  5. Avatar of LP
    LP / May 16, 2011 at 9:35 am

    This type of legislation has been proposed in a number of states – however – to drug test large groups of individuals with no specific cause or indication has been struck down in the courts as “illegal search and seizure”, a violation of constitutional rights. This is an extremely expensive way to accomplish very little – it has been proven and simple question and answer screening will identify those in need of full assessment and referral.

  6. Avatar of Skye
    Skye / May 13, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    So people who are addicted to drugs won’t be able to get their basic human needs met. Wonder what that will do to crime rates Louisiana? My guess…it won’t be good.

  7. PWKaplan / May 13, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Apparently all of those of you who think this is a good idea haven’t tried to get substance abuse treatment in Florida. Guess what? If you are indigent, you can’t. Few programs exist, those have long waiting lists, and they use–by and large–modalities based on Medicaid reimbursement rather than evidence of what works. This is among the most racist/classist pieces of legislation I have ever seen–it is designed to force poor families out of the state so that they become someone else’s problem. Any state that even considers legislation like this without a fully-funded treatment system should be ashamed.

  8. Avatar of J. Rimmer, OLSC
    J. Rimmer, OLSC / May 12, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Great idea and it can’t help but be laced with some political agenda behind it. Unfortunately, far too many are collecting money for “families” and their nutritional needs yet using the money for drugs/alcohol use. If a person isn’t using then they’ve nothing to worry about. If they are they have already deprived their families of monies that should be used for necessary needs. Win/Win

  9. Avatar of Jim Sooy
    Jim Sooy / May 11, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Once again we are proposing to discriminate not only against people with a disease, but also against their children. Do children who’s parents are addicts not deserve our aid?

  10. Avatar of Rick
    Rick / May 11, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    I could not agree more. Far too many “welfare” dollars are diverted from the needs of the family and spent on alcohol and drug use. If nothing else, it may provide an opportunity for substance abusers and their families to get the assistance they need to break a viscous cycle of substance abuse!

  11. Avatar of Jessica Gaedtke
    Jessica Gaedtke / May 11, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I don’t have a problem with mandatory drug testing, but feel that it would be more beneficial to mandate treatment for those who test positive. What will happen to the children in these families if they lose their benefits? If these parents are using drugs, these kids are already suffering, and now we would make them suffer more. There would need to be a safety net for these families that would protect the kids.

  12. Avatar of Dan Cook, LISAC
    Dan Cook, LISAC / May 11, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I think this is a good idea and help drug users and their families overcome the denial of the problems that drug use causes the user and their families. It is time to end the enabling that our society does allowing tax dollars to pay for drug use.

  13. Jeff / May 11, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Bad law and bad policy on so many levels. It’s just another way to garner the conservative vote. This is de facto criminalization of substance abuse. Also, since TANF is for FAMILIES the family and the children suffer decreased nutritional offerings for the addictions of a parent. Is this a good thing or just another way to “appear” tough to a constituency?

  14. D W Stegman / May 11, 2011 at 6:25 pm


    The addicted parent would still have the opportunity to receive “free” addiction counseling services…

  15. Avatar of star kinnison
    star kinnison / June 1, 2011 at 12:55 am

    Its rough having to ask anyone for help, much less the government. Our economy has been getting worse over the past couple of years. It’s even more difficult for women, much less a woman w/children, to get work. Its even more difficult to find a job/career that will work around daycare schedules. Its tough being on a budget, then having to pay for drug tests. What happens if the person has a false positive? They have to figure out how to find the money to pay for another drug test!! This is pretty insane! Many ppl think that just poor ppl are drug addicts, yet they are everywhere & in every career, including police, Child Protective Service, etc. PPl dont get sober/clean until they are ready to do so.

  16. Marcia Kirschbaum / May 14, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    “…it may provide…” Key words. More likely it will do nothing beneficial,just rip more families apart because we all know mass incarceration is the name of the game in the end. The U.S. represents about 5% of the world’s population but nearly 25% of its prisoners. One in 100 American adults – 2.3 million people – is incarcerated. Over 30,000 people are in prison in California for a drug offense; two-thirds for a possession offense. This “War on Drugs” is 40 years and billions of dollars per year OVER AND BEYOND STUPID. It MUST END.

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