The Health, Welfare and Institutions Subcommittee #1 struck down bills that would have forced any participant of VIEW programs to submit to substance abuse testing in order to receive benefits.
After much debate and testimony of facts and statistics, the Subcommittee voted down the combined HB 468 and HB 86 on a 6-5 bipartisan vote; HB 836 was left in subcommittee with no action.
“Working together to make sure Virginia is a better place for our constituents is what we are sent to Richmond to do, and that is what we did today,” said Del. Marcia Price (95th – Newport News), a member of the Health, Welfare and Institutions Subcommittee #1.
In states where drug testing of TANF recipients has been implemented, the practice has not been cost effective: Missouri, Utah, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arizona have implemented the practice; less than .5% tested positive. If TANF recipients would be required to pay for the second test in order to get benefits, they wouldn’t be able to afford it because Virginia pays only 19% of the federal poverty level (about $260 per month).
The practice of drug screening is done already in Virginia’s VIEW program – substance abuse is an impediment to employment and independence, and it is addressed within the program, with appropriate referrals for treatment and sanctions.
Poor education, lack of transportation, health problems and other issues are more likely to be barriers to TANF/VIEW recipients than substance abuse. With limited resources we should focus on the other areas than substance abuse.
“VIEW recipients are no more likely statistically to be drug users than any other group and to target them would be unfair,” Price said. “I am proud to have agreed with my colleagues across the aisle that there was a lack of evidence to warrant this practice. We would be better served, instead of this practice, to continue to invest money into the tangible obstacles to employment. Rightly, partisan politics did not stand in the way of doing what is right for our Commonwealth.”