@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Drug testing for welfare heads for Senate vote

Posted April 17, 2013

A proposal to require WorkFirst applicants to pay for drug testing is headed for a vote on the Senate floor after receiving party-line support in the Senate Health Committee Wednesday.

Senate Bill 594 would require all applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, known as WorkFirst in North Carolina, to pay upfront for testing for all controlled substances. If the tests are negative, applicants would be reimbursed for the tests. If they test positive, they would be ineligible for benefits.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon, says the measure is intended to fight substance abuse.

"I believe that drug abuse in our society is the scourge of our society," Davis said. "I think every kid, regardless of their skin color or their economic circumstance, deserves a drug-free home. This is just one step to reach toward that goal."

"I think that it's very important that we don't continue to fund drug problems with state funds," added Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell.

Critics of the bill pointed out studies that show the rate of drug use among welfare recipients is actually lower than in the overall population.

A similar program in Florida found that 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive. In its first four months, Florida's program ended up costing the state money until it was suspended by the courts. 

Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, said people poor enough to qualify for TANF would likely have trouble paying for the testing, even with the promise of reimbursement later.

If the true goal of the bill is to cut drug abuse, she said, then everyone who receives cash from the government ought to be required to undergo testing.

"We ought to have them right here at the General Assembly," Robinson said. "We seem to be constantly targeting the same particular segment of society."

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, called the proposal "arbitrary and capricious."  

"You cannot just test somebody without probable cause or reasonable suspicion" under the Fourth Amendment, Kinnaird said.

Similar laws in other states have been suspended after courts found them unconstitutional. 

The state currently has 21,124 people enrolled in WorkFirst. At an average $100 per person for testing, the state could be liable for reimbursements of more than $2.1 million.

In addition, all adults living in a household applying for benefits would likely have to be tested under the proposal, so the total testing cost could potentially be much higher.  

"DSS cannot reimburse from TANF funds," Kinnaird pointed out, "so the counties are going to have to come up with this money."  

Davis denied the cost would be prohibitive. "The kids deserve it," he said.

Chairman Sen. Louis Pate pronounced the measure approved before he called for the no votes. 

Its next stop is the Senate floor, where it could get a vote this week.

44 Comments

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  • penelope1 Apr 23, 8:36 a.m.

    There is a lot of assumption on this site that implies most folk getting assistance,checks/food stamps are African Americans but the majority of folk in the State of NC receiving assistance are WHITE; they show up in the stores early in the morning to purschase their foods so as not to be seen using the EBT card. Making statements such as, they need to pawn there gold chains, or having a lot of kids is sterotypical and you need to look in your own back yard before making these inaccurate statments. The system we have in place needs to be fixed; our elderly need these cards and any assistance they can get. Do I think there is abuse of the system, absolutely? But you know what; we will all get old one day and to think you've worked all your life and when you need help it's not available because some person in the legislature lacks emphathy for our poor; which could be you. Hey you & your parents might be rich but most of us aren't and assistance should be avaiable them if they need it.

  • it sometimes rains Apr 22, 10:25 p.m.

    People please run an internet search on urine tests in bulk, there is no reason at all that this is estimated at 100 dollars per person unless we are greasing the hands of some industry. I don't believe that is the intention, so let's be reasonable here...all of us could perform this procedure ourselves for under 5 dollars per person, it makes no sense that the government can't do the same. Honestly.

  • it sometimes rains Apr 22, 10:22 p.m.

    I will say this again....I like this bill and have no idea why anyone thinks it will cost 100 per person to do urine tests. Drug tests in bulk, look it up in a search engine all run together....we can stock DSS with the tests for less than 5 dollars per person. Where is the research and reality here. Do we really need to have 1000 percent mark up on basic urine tests? Maybe I am missing something here.

  • beaupeep Apr 22, 10:00 p.m.

    For those worried about hurting the kids. If they're wasting the money on drugs, the kids aren't getting the benefit anyway. Taking away what they never get doesn't seem to be a big punishment to me.

  • jwjsdj Apr 22, 9:48 p.m.

    Fantastic. "ALL" that Want Govt Money or Benefits, should be Required to Pass a Drug Test. If Fail, Unable to reapply for a Year. If for Welfare or any Govt Money ALL in the Family that will Benefit from such Funds, Should Also Pass Drug Testing..

  • free2bme Apr 18, 2:03 p.m.

    The NC GOP legislature is such a disappointment. They continue to try to hurt and oppress the poor. Their schemes will not work in the end. Drugs is a problem across economic levels so why are just these people being singled out. I think public officials who receive tax payer dollars should be tested as well. I just feel that fairness was not considered here. Many people are receiving public assistance/tax payer monies-why is just this group being tested. I think making needy people come up with money to pay for drug tests before they can get assistance may be worth fighting in court. Regardless, more wasted tax money spent here. What really is it accomplishing? I assure you Sen. Davis could care less about treatment for substance abusers.

  • fatchanceimwrong Apr 18, 12:42 p.m.

    The drug-using recipients will simply stop using for a time period long enough for the drug to get out of their system. The after testing positive they will go back to doing the drugs. Testing is not going to stop the problem.

  • free2bme Apr 18, 12:37 p.m.

    The NC GOP legislature care only about themselves and their rich friends. The sad part is if someone is applying for assistance where are they are going to come up with almost 200 dollars to pay for drug testing. Also, if someone is on drugs and pays for a drug test- then they need more than help with getting a job, they have judgment/mental issues as well. Why the NC GOP is not just getting rid of Work First -I guess reguiring the needy to come up with money before they can get assistance is just as good to them. They do not want to help anybody anyway.

  • delilahk2000 Apr 18, 12:18 p.m.

    TERKEL....I REALLY LIKE YOUR COMMENT ,IF THEY ARE THAT POOR THEY SHOULD NOT BE HAVING KIDS THAT I HAVE TO SUPPORT...I8 TO AM SICK OF IT......ENOUGH.

  • delilahk2000 Apr 18, 12:14 p.m.

    THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE LONG AGO AND THEIR EBT CARDS SHOLD HAVE THEIR FACE ON IT NA D THEY SHOULD NT BE ALLOWED TO GET CASH FROM IT.....THAT WILL GET RID OF SOME FRAUD WITHIBN THE SYSTEM.....I AM TIRED OF MY TAX DOLLARS BEING WASTED......

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