Rep. Sanderson Introduces Important Welfare Reform Legislation
Bill would require drug screening for TANF recipients
Augusta – Monday morning, Rep. Deb Sanderson (R) from Chelsea introduced legislation on behalf of Governor Paul LePage to help ensure that Maine’s limited welfare resources are being used appropriately.
LD 1447 requires anyone applying for benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, to be screened and possibly physically tested for the unlawful use of drugs. The bill, if enacted, would do the following:
• Conform with federal law by barring anybody with a drug-related felony conviction from receiving benefits.
• All TANF applicants and current recipients would be subject to SASSI screening assessment upon applying for benefits, and those with a positive SASSI result would be subject to drug testing.
• Applicants testing positive for drugs would then have the opportunity to participate in a drug treatment program before losing benefits.
• As this bill correctly aligns us with federal law, Maine law would be even more resistant to legal challenges.
“When it comes to TANF benefits all too often we’re told the key word is ‘temporary.’ I choose to focus on the word ‘families.’ For every dollar we give to an able-bodied adult who has no interest in turning their life around is a dollar taken away from a child in need,” said Rep. Deb Sanderson, who also serves as the Lead House Republican on the Health and Human Services Committee. “This sort of testing is not vilifying the poor as critics have been saying. It actually could help identify a person who needs help and get them on the road to recovery that much faster.”
· At least five states, including Maine, have required drug felons to be drug tested as a condition of receiving benefits.
· At least 18 states introduced legislation in 2014 to require drug testing for welfare applicants.
The measure received a public hearing Monday morning. A work session is likely to be scheduled in the coming days.