Just Say No

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Each legislative session in recent years has ushered in multiple proposals to drug test TANF recipients. This year was no exception.  A House subcommittee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions considered three such measures earlier this week, but declined to advance either of them.  The subcommittee got it right and here’s why:

  • There is no statewide data suggesting that drug use is particularly prevalent among individuals who receive TANF cash assistance.  In the absence of credible data, House Bills 86, 468, and 836 simply perpetuate a negative stereotype about the individuals who participate in the program.


  • House Bills 86, 468, and 836 are unnecessary.  Local DSS offices have an existing process for identifying and assisting individuals who struggle with substance abuse as a barrier to employment.


  • The focus of House Bills 86, 468, and 836 is misplaced.  National studies consistently show that poor education, lack of transportation, health problems, and other difficulties are more common among TANF recipients than substance use or dependence.  If we are truly devoted to helping families become self- sufficient, our limited resources should be devoted to those areas.


House Bills 86, 468, and 836 unfairly single out one form of government assistance.  Businesses, students, and every member of the Virginia General Assembly receive a public benefit.  But the proposed measures would attach drug testing to the TANF program only.

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