State lawmakers in West Virginia introduced a bill on Nov.Â 16Â that, if passed, would mandate drug testing for welfare recipients.Â
â€śWe donâ€™t want taxpayersâ€™ money being used to support peopleâ€™s habits,â€ť Republican Delegate Joe Ellington told the Charleston Gazette-Mail.Â
Ellington, who heads up the House Department of Health and Human Resources committee, acknowledged that the plan is controversial.
â€śWe're not trying to hurt anyone, we're trying to help,â€ť he told WSAZ News. â€śWe're trying to target a smaller population, a key population that has a history of drug use.â€ť
As proposed, the law would not require that all recipients be tested for drugs. The DHHR would have to have â€śreasonable suspicionâ€ť that a person was abusing drugs prior to requiring the test.Â
That could be established, according to the Gazette-Mail, if the applicant shows â€śqualities indicative of substance abuse,â€ť or if the applicant has a drug-related conviction within the last five years, or if the person has a baby that tests positive for controlled substances within five days after birth.Â
Drug treatment would be required for the person who fails a test. Consequences increase on subsequent failed tests, including suspension from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF, program for one year and eventual termination from the program after a third failed test.Â
The recipient would be responsible for the cost of the test. It would be deducted from the applicantâ€™s first TANF payment.Â Should the test come back negative, the cost would be refunded.
Ellington told WSAZÂ thatÂ he expected the tests to be a â€śminor cost.â€ť
A February story from ThinkProgress suggests that those minor costs can add up, and have very little return.Â
According to analysis of information from seven states with similar programs, those states collectively spent nearly $1 million administering drug tests and found that the rate of drug use among welfare recipients was lower than the national drug use rate of 9.4 percent.Â
ThinkProgress looked at data from Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, TennesseeÂ and Utah. They found drug use rates among welfare recipients ranging from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent with all but one state coming in under 1 percent.
Photo credit: WSAZ News