Isn’t it unfair to make people on welfare take a drug test?
Most people applying for public assistance benefits will never be required to take a drug test. This would only be required in cases where there is reasonable suspicion to believe that the applicant is an active drug user.
How do you define reasonable suspicion?
Reasonable suspicion of drug use will be determined in one of the following ways:
- Through a criminal record check that reveals a conviction, arrest, or outstanding warrant relating to illegal drugs within the last three years;
- By a doctor’s determination (or other qualified professional in substance abuse) that an individual is addicted to illegal controlled substances;
- By a positive drug test within the last six months.
But what about the children? Wouldn’t kids be denied benefits if their parents are found to be using drugs?
Children are completely exempt from any of these requirements and will never be denied public assistance or given drug tests as a condition for receiving public assistance. In the case where a dependent child’s parent tests positive for drug use, the child’s benefits will be paid to a protective guardian appointed by the court.
Is there really any evidence that welfare recipients are drug users?
Unfortunately, a 2007 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation discovered that at least 20% of welfare recipients report using illegal drugs, and 5% report regular drug abuse or dependence.
Will North Carolina be the only state to test welfare recipients for drugs?
North Carolina will join a growing list of other states with laws requiring some form of substance screening for welfare recipients: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah already have such laws in place. 30 other states are considering similar legislation.
Won’t this drug testing pose an undue burden to people on public assistance?
A drug test would only be required of those suspected of being current drug users for only one program: Work First Family Assistance. Applicants who fail the drug test would be ineligible for benefits under that program for one year — that is, unless they can show they have successfully completed a substance abuse treatment program and can then pass a new drug test. Applicants would be responsible for paying the entire cost of the drug test; however, those passing the test would be reimbursed. Drug-using applicants will likely forgo the test and save themselves and the state the associated expense.
OK. What else does the bill do?
The legislation also requires county social services departments — provided they have the resources — to conduct criminal background checks on applicants for both the Work First Family Assistance program and the Food and Nutrition Services program (“food stamps”) and then share any information they learn about outstanding arrest warrants with local law enforcement officials. The legislation will deny benefits to applicants who have an outstanding warrant for a felony charge or for a probation parole violation.
Federal laws already prohibit fleeing felons and probation or parole violators from receiving public assistance benefits, and this provision will help North Carolina comply with federal law.
Does the legislature plan on overriding Governor McCrory’s veto of the bill?
Although that’s yet to be decided, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis issued a statement on August 15 expressing his disappointment with today’s veto. Read that statement here.