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Editorial: Drug testing

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Last week the Missouri House passed legislation that would allow for drug testing of welfare recipients suspected by the state of using illegal drugs. The bill is now headed to the Senate, where similar legislation is also being debated.

The bill, HB 73, would suspend the direct payment of benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program for one year should the recipient test positive for illegal drug use. The person testing positive will then be referred to a substance abuse treatment program approved by the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

The goal of this legislation is not to deny benefits from those who truly need them but rather confirm that taxpayer dollars are not being used to subsidize illegal drug use. In fact, all those eligible to receive benefits in a household -- whether a spouse, child or even the person testing positive for illegal drugs -- will continue to receive TANF benefits as "protective or vendor payments to a third-party payee."

Missourians, like millions of individuals across the country, want to see their tax dollars appropriately used. Subsidizing illegal drug use is absurd, regardless of the country's economic situation. Nevertheless, most Missourians would probably agree that it is both a socially and economically responsible action to help those in need overcome their drug addiction.

This legislation is a good first step in helping those who truly need financial assistance while also safeguarding taxpayer dollars.

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If I read this correctly, the bill won't save any money, because benefits will still be paid. It will then cost more money, because somebody has to be a third-party payee and administer the benefits, and I doubt that person (or bureau, more likely) will do so for free. The state will also have to pay for the counseling, which will increase our costs even more. Feel good legislation that is style over substance. Sigh.

-- Posted by Marion_Morrison on Wed, Feb 9, 2011, at 7:47 AM

Benefits will only be paid to the family members eligible to receive (not the primary recipient) - and frankly if this was my bill the benefits would be eliminated completely if the primary recipient was found to be using. If I test positive for drugs by my employer, my wife and kids don't continue to get "their share" of my paycheck once I'm fired. Obviously there will be some cost to administer the program - tax dollars I would much rather see being used for these costs over snorted up ones nose or injected into an arm.

-- Posted by Taxpayer protector on Wed, Feb 9, 2011, at 5:31 PM

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