By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Mississippi welfare recipients are on the verge of being drug tested in order to receive their Temporary Aid to Needy Families benefits.
The 52-member Senate passed legislation Wednesday with 15 no votes to require new TANF recipients to undergo drug testing.
The bill, which passed the House earlier this session, now goes to Gov. Phil Bryant, who has indicated he supports it.
“The TANF program is a safety net for families in need, and adding this screening process will aid adults who are trapped in a dependency lifestyle so they can better provide for their children,” Bryant said soon after the proposal passed the Senate Wednesday. “This measure will help make a positive difference for families impacted by substance abuse.”
The legislation would require a person applying for Temporary Aid for Needy Families benefits to undergo screening designed to determine if it was likely that the person was a drug user. A person suspected of being a drug user, based on the screening, would be required to take a test.
If the person tested positive for drug use, the TANF recipient would be required to undergo a two-month outpatient drug treatment program. The person would continue to receive benefits. But if a drug test was failed afterward, the person would be ineligible to continue to receive the benefits.
TANF, a federal program administered by the states, is available to single parents living in poverty. A parent gets $146 for the first child, plus $24 for each additional child. A person is eligible for TANF for only five years and must be looking for a job or be in an educational program to receive the federal benefit.
Opposition to the proposal in both the House and Senate came solely from Democrats, who argued that in other states the number of recipients who failed the testing was very small, yet conducting the tests proved costly.