Lawmakers Consider Drug Tests for Welfare Recipients

7 years 4 months 5 days ago Thursday, January 13 2011 Jan 13, 2011 Thursday, January 13, 2011 6:13:50 PM CST January 13, 2011 in News

JEFFERSON CITY - A new bill introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives this week would require certain welfare recipients to be drug tested. The bill, if enacted, would only screen those suspected of using illegal drugs. A local social activist organization thinks such legislation would only hurt those who need the most help.

A similar bill failed in the senate last year, but HB73, sponsored by Republican Rep. Ellen Bramdon of Sikeston, says "The Department of Social Services shall develop a program to screen and test each work-eligible applicant or work-eligible recipient who is otherwise eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits under this chapter and who the department has reasonable cause to believe, based on the screening, engages in illegal use of controlled substances."

Rep. Bramdon said her constituents shouldn't have to spend their hard-earned tax dollars to support the drug use of those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.

Speaker Steven Tilley agrees, and said every government dollar spent must be spent wisely. He believed spending money on benefits for people who might be doing illegal activity would be unwise.

But there is plenty of opposition to the bill. Missouri Association for Social Welfare Executive Director Bob Quinn works with legislators on behalf of the needy. He has two main reasons for opposing the bill. First, he believes government should not make life harder for people whose lives are already hard enough. Secondly, he said it would be inconsistent for the government to drug test welfare recipients but not drug test those who receive thousands of dollars in tax credits, like small business owners.

Rep. Bramdon said the bill would give those receiving TANF benefits incentive to get off drugs, if they are using them. She also added that the children and families of the drug user would still be able to receive the benefits.

The bill will continue in the house next week, and to see a full copy of it visit http://www.house.mo.gov/billsummary.aspx?bill=HB73&year=2011&code=R

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