Society

Texas Considers Drug Testing TANF Recipients

| by Oren Peleg

The Texas state legislature is considering a bill that would require applicants for the federally funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to take a drug test. The 1994 welfare overhaul bans states from drug testing food stamp recipients, but no such law governs TANF.

"Essentially what the bill's saying is that if you -- if they suspect that you might be using drugs, you will be sent to a drug test,” Marissa Evans of The Texas Tribune told the Texas Standard. “If you test positive, you'll be denied benefits for six months. But the bill does have a caveat that allows, say, a protective payee, if there's a child involved, to accept the benefits on behalf of the child. But that person will have to get drug tested, too."

The bill, introduced by Texas Sen. Jane Nelson, a Republican, comes just days after the Texas Health and Human Services Department moved forward with a plan to cut women's health clinic Planned Parenthood off from Medicaid funding.

"Planned Parenthood continues to serve Medicaid patients and will seek a preliminary injunction in an ongoing lawsuit filed in November 2015, following the state’s original threats to take action against Planned Parenthood’s patients," Yvonne Gutierrez, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes’ executive director stated after the December 2016 move, reports The Texas Tribune.

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But Texas HHS Inspector General Stuart Bowen, citing undercover videos leaked -- and subsequently proven false -- in 2015, said “that Planned Parenthood violated state and federal law." He added that the video proves that the organization has a history of "deviating from accepted standards" and a "willingness to charge more than the costs incurred for procuring fetal tissue.” All these claims have been proven false.

“Your misconduct is directly related to whether you are qualified to provide medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner,” Bowen continued. “Your actions violate generally accepted medical standards, as reflected in state and federal law, and are Medicaid program violations that justify termination.”

The TANF applicant drug testing would use TANF funds to pay for the drug tests, but the bill does not provide funds for treating drug addiction. Applicants who test positive would be given a list of local drug treatment centers.

“Republicans have always said if you can afford drugs like marijuana or cocaine or methamphetamine, you should be able to afford to help your family with things like food, rent utilities and basic needs,” Evans said in response to the drug testing proposal, notes the Texas Standard. “You shouldn’t need to come to the federal government for a handout ... Republicans are all about making sure people are taking personal responsibility for their own issues and making sure that they’re not using the federal government to help a habit. And Democrats and other, more liberal think tanks are saying, ‘Well, no we need to actually find these people and get them in here and help them with their addiction problems.’”

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Sources: The Texas Tribune, Texas Standard / Photo credit: Daniel Lobo/Flickr

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