Random Drug testing for Welfare Recipients
Families applying for federal assistance could be required to take a drug test under legislation introduced in the House Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday.
The bills apply to applicants for the federally funded and state run Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides small payments for food and shelter while applicants job hunt or receive job training.
In Texas, TANF participants, who receive an average of $70 per month for each person in the household, must sign a personal responsibility contract that is monitored for compliance, including child support, children’s school attendance, parenting classes if required, medical screenings and immunizations for children.
The authors of the proposed legislation say it’s not enough that state agencies simply look for convictions when monitoring the promise to not use drugs while on the program.
House Bill 1582 authored by Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Spring, proposes random drug screenings for TANF applicants, drug testing those found to be at a high risk, revoking benefits and blocking future applications for at least six months if the test is positive, and reporting those who fail a drug test to state child protective services for investigation.
Senate Bill 11 introduced by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, proposes screening all TANF applicants, but would allow children to continue to receive benefits through a designated payee if their parents fail a drug test.House Bill 249, introduced by Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, largely mirrors SB 11 except in the wait time before reapplication after a failed test.
House Bill 1244, authored by Republican Rep. Ken King of Canadian, is similar to SB 11 except that it would not report people who fail a test to state child welfare agents and does not automatically require drug tests for people convicted of a felony drug offense.
The National Conference of State legislatures reports that seven states have passed similar measures and another 29 are considering legislation this year.