JACKSON — Gov. Phil Bryant has signed a welfare drug-testing bill, requiring those who test positive to get treatment in order to get cash.
He said it would help people who are “trapped in a dependency lifestyle.”
House Bill 49 will become law July 1.
When it takes effect, anyone who applies for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families will have to answer a questionnaire. If the answers show the possibility of substance abuse, the person will have to take a drug test. Anyone testing positive would have to receive treatment to receive cash assistance.
If the person tests positive for drugs after receiving treatment, the assistance would end.
“The TANF program is a safety net for families in need, and adding this screening process will aid adults who are trapped in a dependency lifestyle so they can better provide for their children,” Bryant, a Republican, said in a news release. “This measure will help make a positive difference for families impacted by substance abuse.”
The bill passed the House 74-46 on Jan. 15, with all Republicans who were present voting “yes” and most Democrats voting “no.”
The vote came after a four-hour debate with opponents saying the bill was designed to punish, rather than help, poor people. Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, called the bill “narrow-minded” and said it was driven by conservative political interests.
The bill’s chief sponsor, House Public Health and Human Service Chairman Sam Mims, R-McComb, during the debate: “It’s about helping these people become better moms, become better dads, become better community members.”
The Senate passed the bill March 12 on a 36-15 vote that also was divided largely along party lines with Republicans in support and Democrats in opposition.
The Mississippi Department of Human Services says 9,563 families received TANF payments last June, the final month of the 2013 state budget year. The average monthly payment to a family was $140, while the average payment to an individual was $67.
Mims said the Mississippi plan is different from a Florida law that a federal judge declared unconstitutional because Florida made drug testing mandatory for all applicants without screening them with a questionnaire.
Utah started a drug-testing program for welfare recipients in 2012. A state agency said the state spent $30,000 the first year and found 12 people who tested positive for drug use. Bryant told The Associated Press in December that he believes Mississippi could run a program for a similar amount of money.
BEFORE YOU GO…
… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.
If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.Click for more info