States seek to increase drug testing in 2018 for government benefits

As we have reported, there has been a big push by Republican led states to include work requirements into programs such as Medicaid as well as food stamps. Next up appears to be mandatory drug testing, and more states are seeking to add that requirement as well as 2018 progresses. The changes will apply to almost all of the “welfare” type assistance programs. The hope is to cut down of fraud, waste, scams of public aid, and save tax dollars.

Some of the states that are seeking to add a drug testing requirement include Wisconsin for Medicaid as well as West Virginia for TANF. Note Wisconsin already has this requirement in place for TANF cash assistance. There are over 20 states that already do drug testing people on government benefits and/or that are seeking to start to test recipients. Some of the proposals date back to 2013 or earlier, and some of the proposals were just created in early 2018. The states in question include the following.

  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Vermont

Some states are seeking to test everyone that applies, or already receives financial help. Some only want to drug test people that have a criminal record or that have a history of usage based on third party or medical data. So while the list is over 20 states, not all of them want to do the exact same thing.

Government assistance programs that may be drug tested

This too varies by state. Some states want to include everything that is considered to be welfare. Others want to pick and choose which benefits to screen for. But in general, the testing may include some or all of the following.

-SNAP food stamps and other food related programs, including WIC, USDA commodities, and more.
-Rent and homebuying programs from section 8.
-Cash assistance, also commonly called TANF – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
-Government health care programs ranging from Medicaid to Medicare.
-SSI disability.


But there may be some other ones added to the list in 2018 as well. As maybe a state wants to tweak the drug testing rules to address a program that may be “abused” in their state, such as Obamacare. Or maybe there are state specific resources, including CalFresh in California, that are on the list.

The primary reason citied for the drug testing is that states do not want to use hard earned tax dollars to give assistance to a low income family if they are on drugs as the money is often just wasted. Benefits such as food from SNAP may be swamped for drugs, or if the government is paying their rent through section 8 then maybe the tenant is just using the apartment for a “drug house” or other illegal activity including growing marijuana.

Another concern is that if the recipient is abusing drugs, then they are not working. That would mean the client in effect has zero hope of ever becoming self-sufficient and getting off the public aid. Providing assistance to those individuals is not what many of these states want to do.

Frankly, we are all for drug testing. If the applicant fails a test, then in a perfect world they may be sent to some form of rehab center for help, even those run by charities such as the Salvation Army. But that may be the next step in the war on drugs.

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