Welfare drug testing bill moves forwards in State Legislature - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

Welfare drug testing bill moves forwards in State Legislature

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A bill that would require some welfare applicants to be drug tested is moving forward in the State Legislature.

Wednesday, the State Senate passed a bill outlining limited welfare drug testing. The bill requires drug testing for applicants of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) with a felony or misdemeanor drug conviction in the last five years.  

The Alabama Department of Human Resources has been working with the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Trip Pittman, R-Baldwin County.

"We've been working with the sponsor of the bill to find something that would be equitable, that would work,” said Barry Spear, Public Information Manager with the State DHR.

According to Spear, under the proposed bill, the applicant is allowed to fail one drug test without any penalty.  If they fail a second time, they are removed from the household budget and another person is designated to handle the family’s funds. Spear says children will not lose benefits.

“The children would be eligible to get benefits. In fact, the children will be eligible to get benefits if there's no adult in the family until the age of 18."

If an applicant is removed from the household budget, the funds the family receives will be adjusted. For example: according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources’ Family Assistance standards, a family of four under TANF currently receives $245 a month.  If an applicant fails a drug test for a second time, the funds will be adjusted to cover a family of three, which is $215 a month.

Spear says right now, they have no way of knowing how many families would be affected if this bill passes. However, he says has his doubts that this would have a great impact.

“A lot of studies in the past have shown that people that receive welfare benefits test at no higher level positive for drugs than the general population."

This welfare drug testing legislation will now move to the State House of Representatives.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states have proposed some type of welfare drug testing legislation. So far, nine states have actually passed legislation.

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