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“The main impact of it is first…to spend TANF money that could go into other things,” said Elizabeth Lower-Basch, policy coordinator and director of income and work supports at CLASP, a non-profit focused on policy for low-income individuals.
Just 29 tested positive at a cost of more than $64,000, according to a Utah Department of Workforce Services spokesman.The drug-testing regimes in the seven states all differ slightly, but the lack of effectiveness is widespread.In 2011, Missouri adopted a law to require screening and testing for all TANF applicants, and the testing began in March 2013.In 2014, 446 of the state’s 38,970 applicants were tested. The budgeted cost for that year’s testing program was $336,297.And, according to numbers provided to Think Progress by a Missouri Department of Social Services spokeswoman, the first three years of the program will likely cost the state more than $1.35 million, including start-up costs.Kansas enacted its drug screening law in 2013, requiring that from 2014 onward, all TANF applicants be tested if a “reasonable suspicion exists” that they might be illegally using “a controlled substance or controlled substance analog.” In the first six months in which the system was in place, Kansas received 2,783 TANF applications.
A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Children and Families told Think Progress, “The first three months of implementation yielded very few drug tests, as staff became comfortable with the criteria. So far, 65 individuals have been referred for suspicion-based drug testing.
As state legislatures convene across the country, proposals keep cropping up to drug test applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, or welfare.
Bills have been introduced so far in Montana, Texas, and West Virginia, with a handful of others also considering such a move. Scott Walker (R) has gone further, proposing to drug test applicants for food stamps and unemployment benefits.
Centers often have long waiting lists, so someone who gets referred may not even be able to get in.
Some states used to use TANF money to expand access to drug treatment, but as the money allocated to the program has dropped in real value, those efforts have dried up.
There is one way Lower-Basch thinks drug testing welfare recipients used to be helpful: not to determine eligibility for benefits, but to help them get work.