Those hoping to qualify for temporary public assistance might soon have to pass a drug test under a bill moving forward in the House.

Work-eligible recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, known as TANF, might have to undergo drug tests. If they fail the test, they lose benefits for a year.

Rep. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) notes the bill calls for drug tests if there is “reasonable suspicion” the recipient uses drugs.

“And if you are, we’re going to punish you, but who we’re really punishing are your children. Because, for 12 months, for one full year, we’re going to take $58 away from your family,” Schupp tells colleagues during House floor debate.

Schupp is confronted by Rep. Mark Parkinson (R-St. Charles) during debate who contends those who do drugs don’t deserve the benefit.

“I don’t know that shaving $58 a month off of a hard-core drug user’s salary is going to keep that person from using drugs,” Schupp tells Parkinson.

“It makes sure that my tax dollars, your tax dollars, all of our constituents’ tax dollars aren’t used to subsidize a drug user’s habit,” Parkinson responds.

Under provisions of HCS/HB 73 & 47, the children of the person failing the drug test would continue to receive benefits through a third party. There are approximately 33,000 TANF recipients in Missouri. Critics of the legislation say it seeks to punish, when it should seek to treat those with drug addictions. The legislation calls for the person who fails the drug test to be referred to a substance abuse treatment program approved by the state Department of Mental Health, but opponents counter that state budget cuts have created long waiting lists for those services.

The bill has passed the House amendment process on a 121-to-37 vote. Another favorable vote in the House sends the bill to the Senate.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60 MP3]