Last week, Mississippi’s state Senate passed a bill to drug test some welfare recipients after it passed the House earlier this year. It’s now waiting for a signature from Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who praised its passage. It will take effect July 1.That means less federal TANF funds available for actually providing benefits. So it's a double whammy, reducing available benefits while stigmatizing the poor as probable drug users, despite a lot of evidence—including from exactly these laws—that drug use isn't especially high among government aid recipients.
The law will require applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to answer a questionnaire evaluating their likelihood of substance abuse. If they are deemed to be at risk, they will have to take a drug test, and a positive test result will require them to undergo treatment for substance abuse. A second positive test will keep them out of the program for 90 days, while a third will kick them out for up to a year.
The bill’s lead sponsor estimated that the testing would cost about $36,000 a year, paid for with federal TANF funds.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant