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Mississippi will begin to drug test welfare recipients

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/19/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Those on state program must answer questionnaire on their likelihood of substance abuse

The State of Mississippi's state Senate has passed a bill that will require some, but not all welfare recipients for substance abuse. The measure passed the House earlier this year and awaits signature from Governor Phil Bryant. The new law will go into effect the first of July.

While there are critics of this program, many tire of federal funds being used for recreational substances in lieu of food and medicine. For many who toil for their pay - the attitude is, 'If you need to get a drug test to get a job - you need to get a drug test to get welfare.'

While there are critics of this program, many tire of federal funds being used for recreational substances in lieu of food and medicine. For many who toil for their pay - the attitude is, "If you need to get a drug test to get a job - you need to get a drug test to get welfare."

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/19/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Mississippi, welfare recipients, drug testing


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - under the new law, applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF program will need to answer a questionnaire which evaluates their likelihood of abusing drugs.

If the questionnaire deems the applicant to be at risk, they will be drug tested. A positive test result will require them to undergo treatment for substance abuse. A second positive test will keep them out of the program for 90 days, while a third will kick them out for up to a year.

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Testing would cost about $36,000 a year, paid for with federal TANF funds, the bill's lead sponsor estimated. Bryant says the bill "will help make a positive difference for families impacted by substance abuse."

Among the dissenting voices are other states, who say that TANF recipients don't have a higher rate of abuse than the general population and that these programs cost a lot of money to administer.

Utah spent about the same amount on a very similar testing regime and only found 12 people who tested positive for drug use. Just two percent of Florida's welfare recipients failed drug tests in 2011, compared to eight percent of the population generally that uses illegal drugs.

Florida's Governor Rick Scott promised it would bring savings. In the meantime, Minnesota has just started drug testing welfare recipients, despite the fact that just 0.4 percent of participants in the main cash assistance program have felony drug convictions, compared to 1.2 percent of the state's general population.

Mississippi officials are warning the new requirement will be a waste of money.

These laws can also bring hefty court fees. As a result, a federal judge invalidated Florida's law earlier this year. Similar laws have also been struck down by the courts.

Most egregiously, critics say is that by directing TANF funds toward administering these tests will only starve the programs of funding for benefits, such as cash assistance, child care assistance, job training programs, and others.

Statistically, for 99 percent of all TANF recipients, cash benefits are worth less now than in 1996. That's the year that Congress passed welfare reform, changing it from a program where the federal government shared the costs and they rose and fell to one where it gives states a set amount of money.

While there are critics of this program, many tire of federal funds being used for recreational substances in lieu of food and medicine. For many who toil for their pay - the attitude is, "If you need to get a drug test to get a job - you need to get a drug test to get welfare."

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