On October 23rd, The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) announced a new welfare drug testing program for applicants applying for The West Virginia Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF).
As of October 23rd, 2017, all people apply for TANF, must complete a reasonable suspicion drug use questionnaire.
The questionnaire includes 14 yes or no questions that date back to the last 12 months. Some of these questions include “Have you ever used drugs other than those required for medical reasons?” “Do you abuse more than one drug at a time?” “Are you always able to stop using drugs when you want to?” and “Do you ever feel bad or guilty about your drug use?” The questionnaires answers are tallied, and applicants with a score of moderate to severe drug use are required to have a drug test. A “yes” response to one particular question, “Have you been convicted of a drug-related offense within the last three years?” automatically requires recipients to be drug tested. Those who are suspected of using illegal drugs are sent for drug testing. Those who test positive are referred to substance abuse treatment and a job skills program.
Failure to comply with the drug screening or drug test will result in an automatic rejection of benefits.
If an applicant fails a drug test, he is able to keep his benefits as long as he enrolls in drug treatment and job training programs. The programs are not funded by TANF, but if elected would be funded by Medicaid. A second failed test could result in a loss of benefits for up to a year, but after a 3rd failed test the applicant will no longer be eligible for benefits for the rest of their life. Parents who fail tests will be investigated by Child Protective Services.
According to legislation, the estimated cost of this welfare drug testing program will round to $55,000 in federal TANF funds the first year and around $22,000 for each year after. These estimates do not include the feasible drug-treatment costs that Medicaid would pick up.
States have proposed welfare drug testing for applicants and recipients of public welfare benefits since federal welfare reform in 1996. In 2009, over 20 states proposed legislation that would require drug testing as a condition of eligibility for public assistance programs.
Below lists states with proposals in 2012 and the programs included:
Lawmakers who support welfare drug testing argued that government assistance should not be used to support drug use directly or indirectly.
Delegate Scott Cadle, quoted “I expect people who live off my tax money to be drug tested,” he said while the bill was being debated. “I don’t want them laying around on welfare and drugs.” Some argue that if people need to pass a drug test to get a job, then people should have to pass a drug test to get welfare.