For many years now, some states have put forward legislation that requires all the beneficiaries of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families commonly abbreviated as TANF, should agree to a compulsory drug test as a requirement for gaining any help. This proposal was first made in Michigan in the year 2000. However, this it was not successful on fourth amendment grounds as the law failed to qualify special needs which were a requirement of the fourth amendment.
In Virginia, the attempt to pass this proposal was unsuccessful too (Cory Rosenberg pg. 3). Several other states, 28 states among them Alabama, Pennsylvania, Utah, Missouri and Florida have also proposed similar legislations with the aim of making it compulsory for all Temporary Assistance for Needy Families’ recipients to undergo a drug screening process.
In 2011 in Florida, their Governor Rick Scott passed a law that required all TANF welfare applicants to agree to a drug testing that was suspicionless as a condition to receive assistance in the form of cash. This made Florida be the first state in the U.S to successfully pass a law that requires TANF beneficiaries to undergo a compulsory drug test. In his argument, Governor Rick Scot said that this would have a positive impact on Florida’s economy which by that time was depressed (Cory Rosenberg pg .4). This regulation was only for cash recipients but not for other forms of aids like food. Beneficiaries who tested positive or failed the test would be rendered ineligible to receive cash aids from the welfare for one year though if they underwent drug treatment and produced proof of it, this period would be reduced to six months. Failing the text twice made recipients ineligible for three years (Cory Rosenberg pg. 4).
In some states, applicants pay for their test costs while other states pay for every applicant’s cost of testing. In others, candidates pay for their screening fees, and the states refund those applicants whose test results come out negative (Pollack et al. pg.4). However, if a claimant fails the test and the state had paid for the screening procedure, the state may resolve in getting their money back by deducting it from program benefits of the applicant (Cory Rosenberg pg. 3). The consequences faced by candidates who either pass or fail the tests also differ according to states. In most cases applicants who fail their drug screening tests are enrolled for treatment and completion of the rehabilitation program is needed to continue receiving help. States also differ in terms of time taken for an applicant who failed the test to reapply.
This differs from 90 days to complete ineligibility based on the number of times an applicant has failed the test (Hall pg. 3).In Alabama, the law was effected on 1st October 2015. All TANF applicants are required to undergo a drug screening test. Previous convictions for drugs within past five years are deemed as possible suspicions. Failing the test twice makes an applicant ineligible for one year while failing thrice renders an applicant completely ineligible for any TANF benefits (Hall pg.5).In Georgia, the law was passed in the month of April 2014.The drug screening procedure on TANF and SNAP applicants who are suspected to have substance abuse is done by the social services department. Applicants pay for their screening costs and those who test positive for substance abuse also pay for their treatment costs. The inclusion of SNAP applicants to this law was against federal guidelines under the agriculture department in U.S. Since January 2016 this law has not been implemented (Hall pg. 1-4).
In Arkansas, the law was passed in 2015 the month of March, a two-year pilot program plan for screening all TANF beneficiaries (Hall pg. 1-4).In Maine, the law was passed in the year 2011. The Department of Health and Human Services was required to establish drug testing on all TANF beneficiaries and applicants who had recorded a felony related to drugs for the past 20 years. However, convictions related to alcohol did not apply (Hall pg. 3).In North Carolina, screening for drugs only began in August 2015(Hall pg. 4).In Michigan, the law that required The Department of Human Services to conduct screening and testing for drugs was passed in the month of December the year 2014 (Hall pg. 4).
This law has received criticism and even lawsuits. For instance, there was a lawsuit that was filed by a man named Lebron against Florida’s law that required all TANF applicants to be subjected to drug screening tests. Lebron wanted to get aid in the form of cash to support himself and his son. He sought to present an argument from the fourth amendment that would see him freed from warrantless and unreasonable searches. He protested the fact that he would be required to pay for a suspicion-less drug screening test stating that this was not reasonable according to the fourth amendment (Hall pg. 3).The Ohio Poverty Law Center also challenges the mandatory drug tests for SNAP, TANF and house assistance beneficiaries. It states that drug and substance abuse should be considered a health problem and more rehabilitation and treatment facilities and programs should be available to those who need treatment without risking their ability to obtain public benefits (Hall pg. 1-4).According to the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI) using SASSI’s products in discriminating applicants who applied for assistance is not in agreement with its purpose, and it violated the Americans with Disability Act (Hall pg. 1-4).
In my views drug screening and tests on applicants who need public assistance should be done by states but the states should cater for all expenses involved in this process. Furthermore, applicants who fail the tests should not be denied any assistance, but rather they should be offered treatment and their legibility to get public assistance not withheld.