House committee OKs bill to create pilot program to drug-test TANF recipients | Arkansas Blog

House committee OKs bill to create pilot program to drug-test TANF recipients

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The House committee on Public Health this morning voted to pass a bill that would require the Department of Workforce Services to create a pilot program to drug test people who receive benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, or TANF.

Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Springdale) presented SB 600, which she co-sponsored with Sen. Blake Johnson (R-Corning). She said the bill is intended to "be a deterrent" against drug use. It would require the state to screen for five drugs — marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamine and opiates — with an initial screening tool, such as a questionnaire. If the results gives DWS "a reasonable suspicion to believe that the applicant or recipient has engaged in the use of drugs," the applicant is then required to take a drug test.

If the applicant refused to take the drug test, he or she would be rendered ineligible for TANF for six months.

Marquita Little from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families testified against the bill, saying that a similar program in Tennessee yielded no substantial results and cost that state money.

In the first six months after Tennessee passed the law, out of 16,000 welfare recipients tested, 37 came up positive — about 0.2 percent. Little said that a total of 5 individuals actually enrolled in a substance abuse program.

The committee passed the bill on a voice vote.

UPDATE: I received a note from Little afterwards in answer to some of my questions: "Department of Workforce Services testified that the program would cost about $1.75 million to implement. The original bill indicated a minimum of 10 percent of TANF applicants would be tested. It was amended to allow DWS to establish the number of applicants subject to testing. As such, a figure was not provided on how many would be tested in year one."

Here's a post from AACF arguing against the bill.



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