Georgia legislature wants welfare recipients to pay for drug testing to keep benefits


Positive drug test would lead to 1-year suspension of food benefits

Legislators in the Georgia House of Representatives are coming up with creative bills with language that allows for “suspicion-based” drug testing for people who receive public assistance. If House Bill 772 becomes law, applicants for benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance could be required to take a drug test at their expense for doing something as “suspicious” as missing an appointment, according to the GA Budget & Policy Institute.

Some political pundits believe this bill should die before it makes it out of the House because it wastes taxpayer resources, picks on the poor for no good reason and presents a significant cost burden for low-income families.

There’s one problem with the legislators’ proposal: The federal government does not allow states to use drug testing as a condition for people to apply for SNAP benefits, except in the cases of drug felons and people who are already tested through other programs like TANF. This bill does not meet that standard. Rep. Greg Morris, the bill’s sponsor, is no doubt aware of this legal roadblock and is pressing ahead anyway while, diverting attention from viable proposals in the process.

There is little evidence that the bill, if passed, would produce any dividends, yet the Georgia legislators are trying to win the political points that come with passing such a hollow bill. The bill is apparently based on the false notion that recipients of food stamps or TANF cash assistance are more likely to use drugs than the public. Florida, Oklahoma, and Utah recently implemented drug testing for TANF applicants and, get this: they found the rate of illegal drug use among them is lower than for the general population.

Legislators supporting the Georgia bill argue it will prevent taxpayer dollars from supporting illicit drug abuse. If that is the problem they aim to fix, shouldn’t the bill propose to drug test any Georgian who receives a public benefit?

Many Georgians receive state benefits through the HOPE Scholarship program. Can we expect a requirement for would-be HOPE scholars to send in proof of drug-free test results with their applications?

I wouldn’t hold my breath for that one. Which leaves one conclusion – this bill picks on the poor just because they are poor.

Deciding which poor Georgians to drug test is left to caseworkers, who will react to a client’s demeanor, log missed appointments, or document previous employment in an occupation that requires drug testing. No provision for caseworker training to spot symptoms of drug abuse is included in the bill. This eye test detection method cannot be as reliable as the standardized evaluation questions used by other states.

The 800,000 Georgia families receiving food stamps and the 17,000 receiving TANF assistance have a hard enough time getting by each day without getting kicked while they’re down. Wouldn’t it be great if Georgia’s policymakers instead spent their time creating opportunities for poor people to improve their financial situation?


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  • Al Your Pal
    March 19, 2014

    I like the bill but it doesn’t go far enough…I think ANYONE receiving public assistance should take a drug test to receive benefits but the state should pay for the drug test…if the drug test comes back positive, that person should pay for the drug test, completion of a drug rehab program (paid for by state programs already out there) and a 1 year supension from assistance.
    I feel that if you receive assistance from the government you are all of a sudden a federal employee, all federal employees take a drug test.

    • cee jay
      March 20, 2014

      Federal employees eh? Well put them on the damn payroll in a job commensurate with their skill level. Welfare rolls will dwindle and people that are in dire need for help will regain self esteem and society as whole will benefit.

      • Al Your Pal
        March 20, 2014

        Looks like you are questioning “Federal Employee”…if you receive Federal Money/Entitlements…in a matter of speaking, you’re a federal employee…I think Welfare rolls will dwindle from the fraud that’s happening within the system…and there’s a lot of it…DRUG TEST if you receive entitlements…then people will regain self esteem and society as a whole will benefit…

  • soisaid
    March 21, 2014

    They should start with the government officials first. just because they can afford their habit doesn’t mean they should be exempt.

  • Bootlip
    March 30, 2014

    The b00gs have been on the teat too long. Make these vermin work, spay and neuter these worthless sots and deport all the illegals and democrats.

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