Welfare drug-screening bill is signed into Oklahoma law
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a measure Wednesday that requires the Department of Human Services to screen welfare recipients for drug use. DHS reports this practice is already used.
Welfare recipients who test positive for drugs or refuse to be tested would have their benefits withheld under a bill signed into law Wednesday.
The measure makes practices mostly already used by the state Department of Human Services a state law, an agency spokeswoman said.
“The bill authors worked with us to understand our current process and what we were doing, and we worked with them to find out what the goals were that they wanted to achieve,” said Sheree Powell, a DHS spokeswoman. “It basically puts into law our current practice.”
About the law
House Bill 2388 requires DHS to screen adults who apply for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program for drug use. The legislation, which takes effect Nov. 1, allows DHS to request a drug test if there is reasonable cause to believe the applicant is illegally using a controlled substance. If the applicant refuses to participate or is determined to be using an illegal drug, assistance would not be provided.
DHS now allows those who test positive to continue to receive the assistance while they receive drug treatment. HB 2388 would withhold assistance but still provide treatment.
“This legislation was carefully constructed with input from numerous lawmakers and was ultimately passed with wide bipartisan support,” said Rep. Guy Liebmann, R-Oklahoma City, the author of the measure. “Oklahomans don't want to pay to support illegal substance abuse and this bill will encourage addicts to undergo substance abuse treatment and tax dollars to go to those who are truly needy.”
Applicants who undergo a substance abuse treatment program can reapply for benefits six months after the date of denial, according to HB 2388. Child-only cases and underage parents are exempt from the drug screening under the legislation and an alternative payee can be named when a parent has been found ineligible for benefits.
“House Bill 2388 will help ensure welfare checks are not being used to pay for drugs,” Gov. Mary Fallin said. “Hard working taxpayers shouldn't be asked to subsidize drug abuse, and this bill will help to ensure they are not.”