Critics of legislative proposals to throw drug-users off a major welfare program say the state would be failing them if the bills become law.
The target of the proposals is people receiving benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Sponsors of the half-dozen bills suspending drug users from the program for one to three years say taxpayer’s money should not benefit drug users.
But opponents such as Colleen Coble of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence says this is no time to throw people off the program–not when there’s a three-thousand person waiting list for drug and alcohol treatment and the state is eliminating income maintenance workers. She tells a Senate committee, “These are workers who are actually no longer case workers. When we changed the program from Aid to Families With Dependent Children to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families we went from case workers to income eligibility specialists. These are now workers who do not help you get a job of find out what is going on with your life.That is no longer their role. They check to see if you are merely eligible for benefits.”
Coble warns removing people from the TANF program without providing treatment and other services can lead to criminal penalties and placement of children in the foster care system, and other costly consequences.
The bills do not commit the state to providing any treatment or rehabilitation services to those who would be kicked out of the program.