Thursday, February 23, 2012

Committee Approves Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients

Welfare recipients would be required to submit to drug testing under legislation approved by a House committee today.
“This is a big victory for the law-abiding citizens of Oklahoma,” said state Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw. “Under current law, welfare benefits can indirectly subsidize an individual’s drug habit, so we must make sure there are penalties for people who take advantage of the system. If this bill is signed into law it will stop recipients from abusing our taxpayer money to fund their drug habits, and it will ensure that needy children still get the food and other support they need and deserve.”
House Bill 2388 would require applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to submit to, and pay for, a drug test. 
Individuals who test positive for drugs would be ineligible for benefits for one year unless they successfully complete a substance abuse program within six months.
The Subcommittee Recommendation for HB 2388 requires recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to submit to, and pay for, a drug test within three months of being approved for benefits.  Persons do not comply with the drug testing requirement will become ineligible for benefits until the requirement is met.  An individual who tests positive will be ineligible for the program for one year or may reapply for the program after six months if able to verify the successful completion of a substance abuse program.  The measure provides that a positive drug test does not affect a dependent child’s eligibility for the program.
The legislation is authored by state Reps. Guy Liebmann (R-Oklahoma City), Bennett, Lisa Billy (R-Purcell), Sean Roberts (R-Hominy), and Steve Vaughan (R-Ponca City).
Should a parent test positive for illegal drugs it would not affect a dependent child’s eligibility for the program.
An estimated 40,634 potential TANF recipients would be impacted by the legislation.
“When a private employee tests positive for drugs, the employer can fire that person,” Bennett said. “Those receiving state services are being paid by the taxpayers of Oklahoma and we should have the right to fire them if they abuse drugs.”
A similar program in Florida saved taxpayers nearly $1 million in the first month of implementation. According to a report issued by the Foundation for Government Accountability, the drug-testing requirement for Florida residents seeking state aid resulted in denial of taxpayer-funded assistance to 9.6 percent of applicants, saving $923,000 in the first month of the law’s implementation.
“In Florida, they were seeing $5.71 in savings generated for every $1 spent to administer the drug-testing program,” Bennett said. “I know that my constituents strongly support this common-sense measure, and I am pleased to see it receive committee support this year.”
House Bill 2388 passed out of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Services. It will next be heard in the full House Appropriations and Budget Committee.

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