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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.