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New House Bill Would Allow Drug Testing For Food Stamps Nationwide

There are 46 million Americans using food stamps, also known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. And now, drug testing of welfare recipients may become a more widespread practice.

U.S. law prohibits adding new eligibility standards for the federal program, but it does not prohibit the same for state-run programs. On Feb. 11, Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama proposed a House Bill that would allow drug testing, The Associated Press reports.

Aderholt, chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, says the program would save money and help those struggling with substance abuse issues.

"Is there a model that can help those that are found to have drug abuse problems and get them the help they need which is obviously going to be better for their families and society as a whole?" Aderholt asked during a hearing with his committee on Feb. 11. "It would be helpful if the drug abusers were identified and we can get them that help.”

Aderholt said drug testing was a matter of social wellness. "This is a compassionate way to try and help these people who have issues, instead of turning the head."

In July, failed presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin sued the government so that his state could drug test benefit recipients.

During the Feb. 11 hearing, Tom Vilsack, head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture asked, "What other programs that we (USDA) supports or provide assistance to are we going to require drug testing?"

"It's a situation of equity. We're not sure what problem we're trying to solve here," Vilsack continued.

It's not unlikely that Aderholt could have Republican support. Although House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has not discussed the issue, he has repeatedly said he wants to reform food stamps and other social welfare programs for the poor. 

Despite partisan backing, the proposal may not move forward. According the American Civil Liberties Union, judges have repeatedly said that blanket drug testing is unconstitutional.

“Politicians need to end their baseless targeting of welfare applicants and accord them the same respect and privacy they would anyone else,” the group wrote on its website.

Sources: Associated Press, The Times-Picayune, American Civil Liberties Union / Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr

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