Missouri TANF: Is State Wasting Taxpayer Dollars Drug Testing Welfare Recipients?

Categories: Drugs, Politics

joint-file.jpg
Psychonaught / public domain
Should federal welfare recipients in Missouri face drug tests? More specifically, is it a good use of taxpayer money?

To State Rep. Stacey Newman, the answer is clearly no. Statistics that she shares with Daily RFT -- and which were debated at a hearing last week -- show that while the state has allotted hundreds of thousands of dollars toward drug testing certain welfare recipients in Missouri, the number of positive test results are incredibly low.

"The cost per person is astronomical," Newman, a Democrat, tells us. "Missourians do not agree with this. There are other ways that we can be spending hard-earned tax money."

See also: Linn State Technical College: Federal Judge Orders School to Stop Drug Testing Students

According to a state report that lawmakers reviewed at an Interim Committee on Improving Government Responsiveness and Efficiency hearing last week, Missouri allotted $679,105 for drug testing Missouri recipients of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program in the last budget.

The report, on view below, says that the funding is allocated for developing a program to screen and test TANF recipients for drug use and covers related staffing costs.

stacey-newman-capitol.jpg
via staceynewman.com
Rep. Stacey Newman.

This drug-testing requirement was established through 2011 legislation signed into law by Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat. The law says that any applicant or recipient of TANF who tests positive for the use of an illegal controlled substance will, after an administrative hearing, be declared ineligible for the temporary assistance benefits for three years. (If applicants enroll in and complete a substance abuse treatment program -- and stay clean -- they can then begin receiving benefits again).

This is the first year the legislature has appropriated funds for the testing outlined in the new law. And the results show that very few test positive.

Since the tests began this budget cycle through June 30, there were 212 drug referrals from the application and approval process.

Of those, nine tested positive.

There were 67 who tested negative and 86 who did not cooperate, failed to provide a valid test sample or were no shows.

Around 33 chose treatment referrals in lieu of testing. Thirteen refused to answer questions at their hearings.

There is also a Highway Patrol component that is conducted quarterly to check for any misdemeanor or felony drug related arrests or convictions during the previous year. All temporary assistance heads of households are subject to this check. Of 215 with a match, through July of 2013, three were permanently disqualified due to a highway patrol match, the findings show.

drug-screening-file.jpg
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jim Watson

"When you do the math, our state is spending atrocious amounts of money," Newman says.

"That number just jumped out of the page at me," she says of the low rate of positive tests. "It's nuts."

Newman points to a report from the Maddow Blog that picks apart similar programs in other states that critics say are clearly wasteful. Missouri's numbers are worse, she argues.

She hopes that lawmakers will take a look at these statistics and consider them in future budget decisions. "Clearly this additional money for drug testing does not need to be appropriated. It's money that we're totally wasting."

These kinds of laws reflect misguided priorities of her Republican colleagues, she argues. "It's an ideology that seems to prevail through the majority party. If you are poor or you need some type of temporary assistance, you must be committing fraud."

Here's the report.

MO TANF

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.


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209 comments
Liha600
Liha600

Cost is $45 per recipient, only recipients that have cause for narcotics are tested, such as an arrest, and they pay for the test if test is positive.
You use marijuana joint photo as representation of a narcotic. The photo alone was enough to tell me this article is media hype.  You are a joke.

sixpackbinky
sixpackbinky

They need do drug testing on disability recipients in Missouri, so they can clean out the meth addicts that use the system.

Barbara Nellesen-Higgs
Barbara Nellesen-Higgs

yes drew I know several people on welfare who brag how they don't have to work but a few hours a week while they sit there and drink a beer or smoke a joint...its pathetic and It makes me sick because I work my ass off, am a single parent I don't drink and I don't do drugs I got no child support from my ex and I have managed to stay off food stamps and welfare

Barbara Nellesen-Higgs
Barbara Nellesen-Higgs

how bout no welfare in the first place then ...people should learn to work and manage their money and quit buying things they don't need

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

Prove it, put a link to the facts that back it up, otherwise everyone will know you are a liar.

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

and you have all these data facts from your own personal experience? Here is one for you, facts recited on FB are 100% randomly pulled out of the rear end of the reciter!

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

Ok, lets go with your plan, but get ready to pay more taxes to support the drug testing program, you probably do not need all that money anyway.

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

But all these people believe that it is far more important to give all that money to a corporation that is making a huge profit on these drug test. Stupid is as stupid does, and a fool and their money is soon parted. Never have I seen those two saying be more true.

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

That is the mindset of most people today.

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

Yeah, they like get taxpayer dollars. Joke is on us.

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

If you are drug tested by your employer, your employer pays the cost. If the state drug tests someone, then you, the taxpayer, pays the cost. If you are willing to spend a million of taxpayer money to save a hundred thousand dollars, you are an idiot.

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

bet you had to put down your joint to type your post.

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

I would bet that a much higher portion of the population would fail. Low income people do not have the money for drugs, but it is far more rampant in the middle and upper income ranges.

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

I have never used any drugs, nor do I get any of these benefits, but I would refuse on the grounds of constitutionality.

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

Would rather fork over even more of your hard earned money to pay for the expensive drug tests?

Stephen Freuler
Stephen Freuler

well, if they DON'T drug test the People that NEED to be drug tested, and they Get welfare/wick/food-stamps etc. then they're basically getting My Money or "The Tax Payers Money" anyway

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

Work harder and work more Karen, because the testing will be far more expensive, and I am sure you do not need all the money you have now!

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

but they are wasting a lot o money, your money...you ok with that? If you are, dig deeper in your pocket, cause the cost will just go up!

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

Some people are stupid enough to spend a million dollars to save a hundred thousand dollars!

Michael Mytzlplyk
Michael Mytzlplyk

It's a one time thing. They lose their benefits until they can prove that they are cleaned up and not using, and after the second or third time, they are done for good.

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

Cheryl does not care about facts, she makes up her own and they must be right, she made them up!

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

So, you like the idea of saving a dollar of your tax money through the expenditure of $20? How about I just give you a dollar, and you give me a $20 and we just keep repeating it?

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

Well Brian, you get out your checkbook, as a taxpayer you will end up paying higher taxes to pay for this program. Lets see how you feel once it hits your pocket!

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

That would be illegal, just as an employer cannot charge a perspective employee, but to hell with the law, right?

Drew Scott
Drew Scott

When a company drug tests you for a job, the companies pays the cost. If the government drug tests you for benefits, the taxpayer foots the bill. In the end, few will be denied based on the test, but much will be spent. Stupid is as stupid does, here's your sign!

Jeff Flash Thompson
Jeff Flash Thompson

of course the liberals dont want the test they believe in living off the gov

Matt Hawkins
Matt Hawkins

only if they missed the state legislature somehow!! :)

Annette Pentecost
Annette Pentecost

They aren't even testing them. I know several people who live in the St. Louis area who do drugs and have never been tested that have collected welfare as their way of living to support themselves for the past 20 years.

Travis Maurer
Travis Maurer

I think it's extremely important. If people don't test positive for cannabis they should receive no funds.

Jeff Tiberend
Jeff Tiberend

It's a waste of time. it's just a way for the Republicrats to make themselves feel good by bulling those at the bottom.

Donna Cooper
Donna Cooper

They only do random testing anyway... if they test them...they give notice... yes a waste of money.. if you call in on a family they give them 24 to 48 hr unless there is physical abuse, notification they are coming. Any idiot can pass with that much notice

Betty Hauser
Betty Hauser

What does one thing have to do with the other? They probably have a drink once in a while, too.

Laura Dee
Laura Dee

Complete waste of money. If one family member doesn't qualify, another can. Doesn't stop anyoneone from using drugs or getting wellfare. Just look at the numbers in FL... it has cost them more to test everyone than it saved in denying assistance to those that failed.

Karyn Hernandez
Karyn Hernandez

they are already wasting millions feeding drug addicts bad parents who sell stamps for drug and alcohol money ...

Michael Mytzlplyk
Michael Mytzlplyk

Yes, it is a good idea. Why should my tax dollars go to their addiction ? We should also figure out a way to make sure they aren't buying liquor too. That money is to feed them and their kids or keep the lights on. Not to use and drink away.

Katie Kelly
Katie Kelly

It only costs about $30 to buy a pill to make you pass a drug test, which costs the star about $60. The system needs reform, but this is not cost effective.

Joe DalekAwsum Willis
Joe DalekAwsum Willis

I like the idea of drug testing welfare recipients but is it a waste of tax dollars? Most likely....perhaps if they take the cost of the testing out of the benefits in payments until it's paid off for those that are approved and those who are denied....bill them for the testing

Liha600
Liha600

@sixpackbinky  Understand your theory, however, Soc Sec Disability pmts are based on money the person earned and pd into the Soc Security system. Welfare TANF is paid by the public, taxes to the state

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