Advocates Criticize Push to Drug Test Welfare Recipients

Charleston Gazette-Mail - Over objections from social workers, anti-poverty advocates and psychologists, a push to mandate drug testing for welfare recipients is racing toward final passage in the West Virginia Legislature. Read

State lawmakers are backing legislation (SB 6) that would require drug tests for about 4,000 adults who apply for cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program in West Virginia — even though similar program have flagged few drug users in other states.

"We don't want our tax dollars being used for drug activity or substance abuse," said Delegate Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell. "We can also get people the help that they need."

On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee advanced the bill to the full House. The state Senate voted 32-2 to approve the legislation on Feb. 9.

At a public hearing last week, no one spoke in favor of the drug-testing bill, while a dozen speakers opposed it.

"This bill is based on stereotypes and punishing the poor," said Sean O'Leary, senior policy analyst at the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy. "Drug testing TANF recipients is a flawed and inefficient way of identifying people who need treatment. It's not based on facts and evidence." 

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