It’s been six months since the new law was passed in Tennessee to drug-test financial assistance seeking low income applicants. According to recent data reported by WBIR, only a small fraction of the applicants have tested positive for illegal drugs.
In the eyes of its opponents, this new law unnecessarily burdens the low-income community, while failing to place similar restrictions on other recipients of federal benefits such as veterans and college students. We reported yesterday on similar plans being put into motion by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
“You are requiring more than 16,000 people to be screened for drug use based on the assumption that people who receive public assistance are more likely to use illegal drugs,” explains Hedy Weinberg, noting his displeasure over the drug test law. “We support the need to combat drug addiction,” Weinberg continued, “but if the state truly wants to combat addiction, they should use their resources to fund drug treatment programs rather than blocking access to public benefit applicants, because we’re talking about providing for families.”
According to the Department of Human Services, only 37 of 16017 applicants have tested positive. All of these applicants had requested for the Families First cash assistant program between July and December. Each applicant was required to fill out a drug screening questionnaire with three segments. Another 81 lost the eligibility to receive benefits since they discontinued completing the application process.
Supporter of the new law state Rep. Glen Casada, a Republican from Franklin, stated, “That’s 37 people who should not be receiving taxpayer subsidies, because they are not behaving as they are supposed to.” He argues, “If the taxpayers are going to support you, there are certain criteria you need to adhere to. This is a good use of taxpayer money.”
The new law has caused many heated discussions and disappointment. Many suggest reviewing the application process in order to make it more transparent and fair for both the beneficiaries and taxpayers in Tennessee.