In a move more typically aligned with a state like Georgia, legislators in Washington State will be considering House Bill 1190, which would require recipients of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) to pass drug testing in certain cases to continue receiving their benefits. The bill, unsurprisingly, is sponsored entirely by Republicans (Reps. Angel, Haler, Walsh, Fagan, Orcut, and Hargrove).
Disguised as a way to stop drug addicts from spending taxpayer money, it’s far more a ploy to grow this particular branch of prohibition, and, just like the drug war itself, disproportionately effect the poor.
This bill would force individuals to get drug tested, who are “assessed through the state alcohol and substance abuse program as drug or alcohol-dependent and requiring treatment to become employable”..
Beyond this, it allows for personal assessments in determining whether someone should be drug tested.
Each recipient shall be assessed after determination of program eligibility and before referral to job search. Assessments shall be based upon factors that are critical to obtaining employment, including but not limited to education, availability of child care, history of family violence, history of substance abuse, and other factors that affect the ability to obtain employment. Assessments may be performed by the department or by a contracted entity.
This assessment would then be used to determine whether that person should be drug tested.
If the assessment conducted under this section indicates a reasonable likelihood that the recipient has a substance use disorder involving the misuse of a controlled substance, the recipient may only continue to receive benefits under the temporary assistance for needy families program in accordance with the requirements of section 3* of this act.
*Section 3 states that if there’s a reasonable likelihood a person may have a “substance use disorder”, the department is required to drug test them, at taxpayer expense.
This is government overstepping at its worst. It’s regressive, and it’s also bad-policy; when Florida took a similar approach with their Wellfare recipients, data showed that it ended up costing the state more than it saved.
If you live in Washington State, we urge you to look up your local legislators, and ask them to oppose this bill.