People receiving TANF and SNAP welfare must pass drug tests

Cora Sutherland

The reality is that welfare is an umbrella term covering multiple forms of social assistance subsidies, including Social Security and Medicare. A handful of states require drug testing/screening for social assistance applicants. However, all recipients of federal assistance through TANF and SNAP should be required to pass drug tests and/or screening, for it is a moral obligation and fiscal responsibility.

The number of families that received TANF cash benefits in March 2013 was 1.75 million, according to the Congressional Research Service. The total number of recipients for the same month was approximately 4 million people. Three quarters of beneficiaries were children, leaving about one million adults as recipients.

Social assistance programs are clearly necessary for many families and individuals across the country. In order to ensure both the efficient use of the TANF cash handouts as well as the maximum benefit for all recipients, therefore mainly children, adult recipients of TANF benefits should be required to pass drug testing and screening.

People in opposition to drug testing and screening welfare recipients reasonably argue that it creates offensive and unnecessary social and racial stereotypes and stigmas. Ariz., Fla., Ga., Kan., Mo., N. C., Okla., Tenn. and Utah have all passed legislature related to drug testing and screening welfare recipients. To elaborate, some of these laws specifically allow profiling to determine who must go through testing and screening in order to receive the assistance benefits. These arguments and issues are valid, but can be eliminated through the elimination of drug testing that allows profiling.

Also noteworthy is the argument that the cost of drug testing recipients of temporary assistance is not worth the benefits, for positive results are frequently low. Although recent testing in Florida supports this, it is still necessary to perform the tests. Even if the percent of people that test positive is small or nearly insignificant, it still holds importance. If a citizen requires TANF, SNAP, or other benefits, it can be assumed that they are not in a position where they can be blowing money on drug addictions. Therefore it is immoral on their part as well as the nation’s behalf to allow them to continue receiving benefits while consuming illegal substances.

Administering drug tests to welfare recipients is a moral obligation that the U.S. must fulfil to ensure the crucial use of funds efficiently. In addition, it will benefit those most in need rather than harming them, which would be the case if we do not enforce the prohibition of drug use while receiving social benefits.