The Washington Post

Mississippi will begin drug testing TANF recipients


Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (right) (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly described TANF benefits as food stamps. The SNAP program and TANF are independent of each other.

Residents who apply for temporary financial aid benefits in Mississippi will have to submit to drug testing if the state deems they are likely to be substance abusers under a new measure headed to Gov. Phil Bryant’s (R) desk.

The bill passed the state Senate on Wednesday after passing the state House earlier this year. It would require new applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to submit to a questionnaire that would evaluate the likelihood of substance abuse.

Applicants deemed at risk of substance abuse would then be required to take a drug test. Testing positive once would require a TANF recipient to undergo treatment for substance abuse; testing positive a second time would get a recipient booted from the program for 90 days. A third positive test would exclude a recipient for up to a year.

In a statement, Bryant praised the law for making “a positive difference for families impacted by substance abuse.”

“The TANF program is a safety net for families in need, and adding this screening process will aid adults who are trapped in a dependency lifestyle so they can better provide for their children,” Bryant said.

The state will use federal funds earmarked for the TANF program to administer the questionnaires and testing. The bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Terry Burton (R), estimated the testing would cost about $36,000 a year.

Nine other states, all governed by Republicans — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah — have passed legislation requiring TANF applicants to be screened or tested for drug use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Florida’s version in 2013, which required testing for all TANF applicants.

Federal rules permit drug testing using funds from TANF block grants, and at least 24 states are considering bills that would require those tests during their 2014 legislative sessions. The first three states started requiring drug testing in 2011, and states that use a questionnaire to screen for possible drug abuse have seen their programs upheld in federal courts.

Democrats who opposed the Mississippi measure said it would inadvertently impact children whose parents tested positive for drug abuse. They offered amendments that would also conduct tests on college students who receive public scholarships and business executives who benefit from state or federal assistance, though those amendments were defeated, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported.

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Republicans debate Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is on Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Heading into the next debate...
Donald Trump returns to the Republican presidential debate stage Saturday night. Marco Rubio arrives as a sudden star, but fending off ferocious attacks from his rivals. Still glowing from his Iowa victory, Ted Cruz is trying to consolidate conservative support, while Ben Carson is struggling to avoid being typecast as the dead man walking.
Listen
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote.
New Hampshire polling averages
Polling in New Hampshire has typically been volatile after Iowa's caucuses, but Bernie Sanders, from its neighboring state Vermont, has been holding a lead over Hillary Clinton.
55% 38%
Listen
Play Video
Upcoming debates
Feb. 6: GOP debate

on ABC News, in Manchester, N.H.

Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.