Like many other bills, a drug-testing mandate for welfare recipients didn't pass this session.
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Like many other bills, a drug-testing mandate for welfare recipients didn't pass this session.

Date: April 28, 2010
By: Alana Young
State Capitol Bureau

Intro:  Lawmakers have failed to pass legislation mandating drug-testing for TANF recipients.
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Wrap: Florese Sherman is a 28-year-old mother of five, who knows first-hand what a financially stressful life is like.

With her mother disabled when she was a child, the family was forced to go on welfare.

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Description: "Well I definitely feel like, if we wouldn't have had that, when we were, you know, when we were children, I don't think we would have, we wouldn't have made it by. She couldn't work, she couldn't even vaccum the floor."

But for other needy families, state funded financial support could come to a screeching halt if they are using illegal drugs.

8 states, including Missouri and Kansas have proposals in their state legislatures that would require drug-testing for welfare recipients.

Sherman, a Kansas resident, says stopping those who abuse the welfare system could be a good thing.

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Description: "I just see so many people that abuse it, so many women just have multiple kids just so they can get more welfare, or stay on welfare longer. Or you know, people that work and get welfare you know, manipulate the system, things like that. Its frustrating so I definitely think it should be more regulatory rules on it."
 

One of the bill sponsors, Republican Representative Chuck Gatschenberger says stopping the misuse of welfare funds is the end goal,and says ultimately, anyone receiving tax dollars should be subject to testing.

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Description: I don't care if they're male, female, black, white, Mexican, Canadian, American, whatever they are. If they are getting the benefits, they are going to be held to the standard, the same way that I would do with everybody in the state.

National Welfare Rights Union Representative Fred Vitale says this legislation isn't even targeting the right problem.
 
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Description: It's once again, its you know, instead of attacking poverty, we attack the poor. This has been the, you know, the policies of Democratic and Republican administration since Ronald Reagan. We have to stop attacking the poor and start attacking poverty.
 
Some have even raised race concerns with this legislation. Vitale says race is definitely a part of it.   

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Description: We know that that's an aspect, an important aspect of this kind of profiling. But the majority of people who recieve, you know, welfare are white, and so we have to take that into account as well. It is an attack on poor people, and it is also an attack on poor people of color.

But Representative Gatschenberger says race has nothing to do with the bill at all, and the legislation is merely serving as a starting point.

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Description: This is for people that are habitually abusing drugs. Maybe, we can get them to be not using drugs. Would that be enough to help them to get back into society to be a productive individual? I don't know, we've got to start somewhere.

To former welfare recipient Sherman, it is your own fault for taking drugs and losing your funding.

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Description: "I mean, I know some people that are on welfare that probably do much drugs, and, it probably will cause a problem for them but, it's kind of sad to say, but I don't feel bad for them because they shouldn't be doing drugs. Like, if you have money for drugs, you don't need to be on welfare, why are you spending welfare money on drugs?"
 
But Fred Vitale of NWRU says legislators have no statistical data to even prove many welfare recipients are actually using and abusing drugs at all.
 
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Description: I think its a ruse, I don't think they've ever produced any evidence of welfare recipients using drugs, and using welfare money for purchasing drugs either.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 86,000 families are recieving welfare funding. With such large numbers, questions about how this bill will affect recipient children arise.

According to the bill, only funding percentages allocated for the caretaker will be removed. Recipients will also be able to get funds reinstated with subsequent clean test results.

Sponsoring a bill just like the Missouri legislation, Republican Representative Kasha Kelley from Kansas has made some headway in a drug-testing bill after it passed through the House in March.

Representative Kelley says the bill is all about helping individuals and stopping their drug use.

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Description: Because at the end of the day, if we continue to perpetuate cycles of drug use on the private citizens dime, all we're doing is potentially perpetuating generations of more people to grow up in a household that is liable to abuse the system again.

Missouri Democratic Representative Maria Chappelle-Nadal also says encouraging independence and self-reliance should be the legislative goal, not just ending drug use.  

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Description: One, of course we don't want to have welfare recipients using drugs, but two, we also want to reduce the number of those people who are on welfare and there's always a process. The whole point of having such a program is to help get people on their own two feet, and that's what we should be focusing on.

For Sherman, who is on welfare, financial freedom and independence is exactly what she is looking for.

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Description: "I know me myself, being that I grew up on it, like, it was kind of like, one of my things, when I become an adult, I never wanna be on welfare, like never in life."

The Missouri bill is yet to enter the House for a vote, and will not pass this legislative session, while the Kansas bill only needed approval in the state Senate.

From the state Capitol, I'm Alana Young

 

 

 

 

 

 



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