Gov. Tomblin signs bill requiring drug testing of welfare recipients

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that requires the drug testing of welfare recipients was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

SB 6, also referred to as the “Welfare Drug Testing Act,” calls for a three-year pilot program to screen applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits in West Virginia if there is a “reasonable suspicion” they may be using drugs.

During the 2016 Legislative Sessions, the bill’s supporters claimed it would help locate drug addicts to get them into treatment centers. Those against it argued that such legislation unfairly targeted the poor.

The bill incorporates a three-step process for cracking down on drug use among welfare recipients.

If an applicant fails the drug test on a first offense, he or she will maintain their benefits, but will need to enroll in a drug treatment program and a job training program. On the second offense, the applicant has the potential to lose their benefits for up to 12 months while completing the same programs. The third offense calls for a loss of benefits for life.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources will handle drug treatment programs for those that fail drug tests.

West Virginia joins 13 other states that have legislation requiring some form of a drug test for welfare recipients.

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