Friday, 14 December, 2018

Trump considering plan to drug test some food stamp recipients

Trump administration proposal would allow states to require drug testing for some food stamp recipients Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sued in 2015 to be able to give drug tests to adults applying for food stamps
Nellie Chapman | 13 April, 2018, 14:58

Supporters of the move say it would help individual states get more flexibility in how they serve those in need and could save states money, while reducing drug dependency. Mandatory drug tests for people on food stamps is a conservative idea that's been discussed for a while.

But the development reported by AP follows from a story we've been covering since 2017: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's plan to limit SNAP access by making drug-testing a requirement for some recipients. It hasn't produced anything. Should anyone who drives on government-funded roads or CEOs of companies enjoying tax loopholes be forced to undergo drug testing as well?

Florida has tried to implement a similar program, though a federal appeals court in the state determined in 2014 that drug testing SNAP recipients would be unconstitutional. In one state, 321 tested positive at a cost of almost $2,650 per positive test.

Federal law does now allow states to make their own laws imposing restrictions on SNAP eligibility, though a number of states have tried.

The proposal would target those who are able-bodied without dependents.

"The administration is right to pursue proven reforms that restore the dignity of work and help people get back on their feet", said Jessica Shelburn, Nebraska state director for Americans for Prosperity.

But at least 20 states have introduced legislation to screen safety net program participants in some capacity, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At least 15 states passed laws allowing drug testing for recipients of temporary assistance. The bulk of the bill's spending goes toward funding SNAP, which often proves the most contentious part of negotiations; late last month, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., issued a statement on behalf of Democrats denouncing "extreme, partisan policies being advocated by the majority".

Ed Bolen, senior policy analyst at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, told the Associated Press that requiring those with low incomes to pass drug tests before accessing public assistance will have consequences for marginalized populations.

Drug testing would not be an entirely new frontier for SNAP.

"Are people losing their food assistance if they don't take the test, and in that case, is that a condition of eligibility, which the states aren't allowed to impose?" he said. In response, Walker instituted what the Associated Press calls a "workaround", requiring drug testing for food stamp recipients applying for certain jobs in the state's Employment and Training Program. "This is kind of a different bucket".

Couple of months ago, the Trump administration released its proposal for the fiscal year 2019 budget and it had little to cheer up the low-income Americans. "These cuts would increase the need for food assistance nationwide, and the non-profit sector simply can't fill the gap- for every meal provided by the Feeding America network, SNAP provides twelve".