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Senate panel OKs welfare drug-testing pilot effort

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources approved a bill Tuesday afternoon that will set up a three-county pilot program to drug-test welfare recipients.

Recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) would be randomly drug tested for “reasonable suspicion,” including demeanor, termination of employment due to drug use, an arrest for illegal drugs or evidence of drugs or drug paraphernalia in the home.

 The TANF recipient would pay for drug-testing and would be reimbursed if the test came back negative. If the test is positive, any minor children in the home would still receive benefits, but their funds would be administered by another adult who had been drug-tested, the bill says.

A positive test would result in enrollment in a substance abuse and job skills programs for the TANF recipient, during which time he or she could receive no benefits. When those programs are completed, the recipient would be subject to random drug-testing.

Second offenses would result in more substance abuse and job skills training, with a penalty of 12 months of no TANF benefits. A third offense would mean permanent removal from TANF rolls.

Similar laws in Florida and Michigan have been challenged.

The committee’s counsel said that in Tennessee, 16,017 welfare recipients were drug-tested, with 37 testing positive for illegal controlled substances and another 25 refusing to be tested. In Florida, 4,046 people were tested, with 108 welfare recipients testing positive in a four-month span…


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