Update: House passes drug testing for welfare recipients

Update: Monday, January 31st and 7:15 p.m.: The Missouri House has passed a bill allowing drug tests of welfare recipients and applicants if the state suspects they're using illegal drugs.

The House bill would deny Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits for one year to suspected drug users if they failed the test given by the Department of Social Services.

Monday's vote of 116-27 in the House sends the measure to the Senate, where a committee is considering similar legislation.

Supporters say taxpayers don't want their money to fund a person's addiction. Opponents of the bill say it does not help addicts get treatment to get rid of their habit.

Click here to read the full drug testing bill, HB73. Update: Friday, January 28th and 7:15 a.m.:

The sponsor of a Missouri House bill to require drug tests for some welfare recipients is disputing how much the proposal would cost to implement. The state would administer the tests to people suspected of illegally using controlled substances. Analysts on the legislative staff estimate the program would cost the state about $2 million a year. But the sponsor, Republican Ellen Brandom of Sikeston, said Thursday she thinks it would only cost about $500,000. House members have given the bill first-round approval. It needs another vote before it goes to the Senate. Republican House Speaker Steven Tilley, of Perryville, says Republicans might challenge the cost estimate .

Update: Wednesday, Jan. 26 at 7:08 p.m.:

Nearly 43,000 Missourians are part of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. Elaine West, with the Missouri Association for Community Action said the bill left her with a lot of unanswered questions."I just think there's a lot of questions that need to be answered" West said. We need to explore the options and explore what the real problem is." The bill said the loss in benefits would only be for the individual who tested positive for drugs.That would mean a reduction of $58 in the monthly allowance of $292 for a family of three.Even though the bill could save the state money if some legislators get their way, others said children would ultimately be the ones paying the price."I just think we need to think about the welfare of the children and I don't know that this will address that," West said.In the bill, children of those adults who test positive could continue receiving benefits through a third party, like an aunt or grandparent. "Who will be responsible to see that the appropriate care is taken, that food is purchased for them?" West questioned. In the end West thinks we should be addressing why people use drugs and how we can help them.

Original Story:

Missouri House members are set to consider legislation to require drug tests for welfare recipients Wednesday. The bill requires the Department of Social Services to develop a testing regimen for applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Tests would be given to people whom state officials reasonably believe have used drugs. Recipients who test positive for drugs would be ineligible for benefits for one year. But the children of adults who test positive could continue receiving their benefits through a third party. Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston told the Southest Missourian the loss in benefits would only be for the recipient who tested positive for drugs, which would mean a reduction of $58 in the monthly benefit of $292 for a family of three. Other household members would continue receiving benefits, she said, with the money going to a third party such as a grandparent or aunt. Many oppose the bill saying children could fall through the cracks. "I don't want tax dollars paying for someone's drugs, either," Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur said. "But what this bill does is just punitive and it ends up hurting the children. And let's just not assume that they're drug addicts because they're poor, particularly if they're compliant with the tenets of the program." This isn't the first time law makers have pondered the idea of drug testing for benefits. In 2009 lawmakers in at least eight states wanted recipients of food stamps, unemployment benefits or welfare to submit to random drug testing. Those in favor of the drug tests said they were motivated out of a concern for their constituents' health and ability to put themselves on more solid financial footing once the economy rebounded. What do you think about the bill? Do you think it's a good idea? What is your op inion on the children involved? (The Associated Press contributed to this story)