Progress report on TANF drug screening mandate - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Progress report on TANF drug screening mandate

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

We have a progress report on the controversial law requiring drug testing for some welfare recipients. 

Opponents say the numbers confirm it's a waste of taxpayer money, but some supporters think it's worth it.

More than 12,000 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants were screened using a mandatory questionnaire and based on their answers, some were issued drug tests. 

Out of the 175 that were given a drug test, just 10 tested positive.

"That's 5.7 percent of those that tested," said Mississippi Center for Justice Advocacy Director Beth Orlansky. "But .083 percent of the total number of applicants. I don't have numbers on the general population. But I dare say the number of drug users is probably higher."

In 2014, the House Public Health committee chairman Representative Sam Mims said, "If we're able to help one or five or ten people, help them become better moms better dads better community members then we can do that."

At $43 a test, the state spent more than seven thousand on drug tests alone. The cost for the questionnaire kits was $18,750, according to the Mississippi Center for Justice. That's money that some say could've gone to help other families, not stereotype them.

Cassandra Welchin who works with the Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative said, "It really devalues their worth and that's what we kept hearing," noted Cassandra Welchin. "It's devaluing. We're not on drugs. So again, why do we continue to do that?"

She notes that TANF is considered a last resort and the maximum $170 a month for a family of three isn't enough to lift them out of poverty.

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