Drug Testing For Benefits

Drug Testing For Benefits

A bill passed in the Texas Senate would require all applicants to the Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) pass a drug screening before receiving benefits.

The Health and Human Services Commission estimates about 100,000 Texans apply for TANF benefits each year. If this bill passes, all TANF applicants will be screened for drug use, by filling out a questionnaire.

Spokesperson for the HHSC Linda Edwards Gockel said the form of the screening will be decided based on states that already have the screening in place. She said it usually involves a "few questions about things that might involve drug use."

People who are identified by the drug screening, as well as those with prior felony drug charges, will then undergo a drug test. If they fail the test, they immediately lose their cash benefits.

"They can reapply in six months and they will be tested again at that point," said Gockel. "If they fail a second time, then they can be referred for treatment, and if they show they have gone through treatment, then they can apply a third time."

If an applicant fails the drug test a third time, they are permanently removed from the TANF program and can never receive benefits again.

Children would never lose benefits if their parent(s) fails one or more drug tests. The state would designate another responsible adult, a family member or friend, to receive benefits on behalf of the child. This adult, known as the "protective payee", would have to undergo a drug test without an initial screening.

Christina Myers