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House Passes TANF Drug Testing Bill

john_shott.jpg
Perry Bennett
/
West Virginia Legislative Photography
House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer County.

The House of Delegates passed a bill Wednesday that would require drug testing for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

 
Senate Bill 6 passed 91 to 8 in the House. The bill requires the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to apply for permission from the federal government to begin a drug screening and testing program.

 
In that program, applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, benefits could be tested if there’s “reasonable suspicion” those applicants are using drugs or if they’ve been convicted of a drug crime in the past three years.

 
The bill creates a three strike system within the program. After one failed drug test, the TANF recipient does not lose any benefits, but must enter a rehabilitative or workforce training program. After the second failed test, the recipient loses benefits for one year or until completion of the workforce or rehabilitative program. After a third failed test, he or she loses benefits for life.

 
In any step in the process, the benefits given to children in the home will not be taken away. The DHHR is required to find another adult to distribute the benefits to, just like they do in other programs.

 
Those in opposition to the bill argue it's singling out low-income people, while those in support say it will help those who struggle with drug abuse and ensure state dollars are being used honestly.

 
Democrats attempted to amend the bill on Tuesday evening, however all four proposed amendments were rejected or ruled not relevant to the bill.

 
The bill did see two amendments from the House Judiciary Committee, so the bill will go back to the Senate for consideration before being sent to the Governor's desk.

 
In a recent poll of likely West Virginia voters, 77 percent supported drug testing welfare recipients.
 

Webmaster/Eastern Panhandle Bureau Chief/Part-time Education Reporter/Producer, emccormick@wvpublic.org, 304-876-9313, @LizMcCormickWV

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