The Trump administration is considering a plan that would give states the option to require mandatory drug testing for certain food stamp recipients, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.
If implemented, the plan will primarily affect those who are “able-bodied,” without dependents and applying for a specialized job, according to a Trump administration official who agreed to speak with the AP anonymously.
According to that source, the plan would apply to about 5 percent of people in the Supplemental Nutrition Program, or SNAP. The 70 billion dollar program provides food assistance to over 40 million Americans.
“The drug testing proposal is another step in the Trump administration’s push to allow states more flexibility in how they implement federal programs that serve the poor, unemployed or uninsured,” according to the AP. “It also wants to allow states to tighten work requirements for food stamp recipients and has found support among GOP governors who argue greater state control saves money and reduces dependency.”
Current federal law prevents states from implementing additional requirements for otherwise SNAP-eligible individuals.
When states have taken steps to implement such guidelines, they’ve been blocked from federal judges.
“In Florida in 2014, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling that drug testing SNAP recipients is unconstitutional,” the AP explained.
Also in 2014, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill requiring drug testing of SNAP applicants under “reasonable suspicion of substance abuse.” This law was also struck down in a federal appeals court.
Conservative politicians like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have long pushed for a drug test to be necessary for food stamp recipients. Walker has argued that such a test is necessary for more people to get into the workforce, as it gives drugs users a chance to get treatment.
“Employers have jobs available, but they need skilled workers who can pass a drug test,” Walker said in a statement last year. “This rule change means people battling substance use disorders will be able to get the help they need to get healthy and get back into the workforce.”
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has also promised to provide states with “greater control over SNAP.”
“As a former governor, I know first-hand how important it is for states to be given flexibility to achieve the desired goal of self-sufficiency for people,” he said. “We want to provide the nutrition people need, but we also want to help them transition from government programs, back to work, and into lives of independence.”
Opponents of the plan claim it’s too costly and legally questionable.
“Are people losing their food assistance if they don’t take the test, and in that case, is that a condition of eligibility, which the states aren’t allowed to impose?” said Ed Bolen, senior policy analyst at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities think tank. “And does drug testing fall into what’s allowable under a state training and employment program, which typically lists things like job search or education or on-the-job experience? This is kind of a different bucket.”
As reported by Conservative Tribune, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday requiring those who receive benefits from federal assistance programs to work.
“The federal government’s role is to clear paths to self-sufficiency, reserving public assistance programs for those who are truly in need,” the executive order states. “The federal government should do everything within its authority to empower individuals by providing opportunities for work, including by investing in federal programs that are effective at moving people into the workforce and out of poverty.”
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