Missourians receiving temporary public assistance would have to be drug free to keep receiving the benefits under a bill heading to the governor.
House members accepted Senate changes to SS SCS HCS HB 73 & 47 and sent the bill to Governor Nixon on a 113-to-34 vote. It would cut off Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to anyone testing positive for drugs.
Rep. Steve Cookson (R-Fairdealing) stated during House floor debate that arguments contending that taking TANF benefits away from parents hurts children misses the point.
“There is no greater abuse that happens to children than at the hands at those who are abusing and using drugs,” Cookson stated.
He and other supporters contend that the proposed punishment would provide an incentive to kick a drug habit. Yet, Rep. Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) countered that the bill doesn’t solve the underlying problem of drug abuse.
“And, until we solve the underlying problem of the drug abuse, you can take the money away all you want, those parents are going to find ways to get the drugs,” Montecillo told colleagues.
Other critics question the price tag. It is projected that administering the drug tests would cost the state up to one million dollars. The state would save $58 a person per month for each person who loses TANF benefits due to failing a drug test. Those who enroll in a drug rehabilitation program would continue to receive benefits unless they fail a drug test. If parents lose benefits, children would continue to receive them through a third party.