Monday, August 11, 2014

Welfare Applicants in Tennessee Must Declare Prior Drug History Under New Law
August 6th, 2014/

Under a new law in Tennessee, welfare applicants must declare any prior history of drug use, NPR reports.

The new law, which went into effect July 1, requires new applicants to fill out a questionnaire that asks whether they have recently taken drugs, and whether they lost employment or had court appearances scheduled in the past three months because of drug use. Most applicants so far have answered no to the questions. A person who answers yes must undergo drug testing.

So far four people have been disqualified from receiving benefits because they refused to submit to the law’s requirement that applicants undergo drug testing, according to theAssociated Press.

Supporters of the law say it is designed to prevent public funds from being spent on illegal drugs. Critics say the law unfairly penalizes vulnerable people.

State Senator Stacey Campfield, who wrote the law, says applicants who test positive are connected with treatment programs. The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee says the law is a violation of privacy. The group is planning on challenging the law in court.

“We don’t test individuals who are seeking government support like farmers, veterans and students, so we have to take a step back and question why limited-income people are being targeted and have to submit to these intrusive searches,” said Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director.

Legislators in a number of states are continuing to pursue measures that would deny welfare benefits to people who use illegal drugs.

In December, a federal judge in Florida ruled the state’s drug-test requirement was unconstitutional. Florida’s law required welfare applicants to undergo mandatory drug testing. Judge Mary S. Scriven of the United States District Court in Orlando ruled the testing requirement violated the protection against unreasonable searches.

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