Bill That Would Require Drug Tests for Some Food Stamp Recipients Introduced

March 8, 2019 Updated: March 8, 2019

A bill that would require drug tests for some Alabama food stamp recipients was introduced to the state House of Representatives on March 5.

Under existing law, no food stamp applicants are required to be tested for illegal substances, nor are current recipients required to be tested to stay on the program, known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

“This bill would require an applicant for SNAP benefits to be tested for substance abuse if there is reasonable suspicion that the person who uses or is under the influence of a drug,” according to a synopsis of the bill, HB 3.

That includes the person having a conviction for the use or distribution of a drug without a prescription within five years of applying for SNAP benefits and testing positive for drugs in a prior test.

If the applicant or recipient fails a drug test twice without a valid prescription, that person would be ineligible for food stamps.

A grocery store advertises that they accept food stamps
A grocery store advertises that it accepts food stamps in the South Bronx in New York City, on Sept. 19, 2013. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

If the person failing testing twice was a parent of a dependent child, that parent could designate a third party to receive the benefits for the dependent child.

The Department of Human Resources would pay for the initial drug test but any subsequent drug screening would be paid for by the person being screened. If they test negative, the department would reimburse them.

Anyone who refused to undergo a drug screening or delayed it beyond a time set by the department would not be eligible for SNAP.

The bill was introduced by its sponsor, state Rep. James Hanes, a Republican, on Tuesday and referred to the House’s Judiciary Committee.

“It’s time to eliminate food stamp fraud,” Hanes previously told WAAY. “In order to better provide for families who are in need, this issue must be addressed. We owe it to the working-class taxpayers to make this program as efficient and waste-free as possible.”

If passed, Hanes told the Montgomery Advertiser in an email, the bill “will help assure minors living in the households (receiving SNAP) will get proper nourishment,” adding that “the working-class citizens of this state have been asking for this type of legislation for years.”

President Donald Trump at the White House
President Donald Trump at the White House on Jan. 25, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Approximately 850,000 Alabama residents received food stamps per month in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s roughly 6 percent of the state’s population.

National Food Stamp Enrollment Declines

Nearly 3.9 million Americans have nixed food stamp benefits since President Donald Trump took office, saving taxpayers more than $10 billion.

Some 38.2 million people collected payments in November 2018, according to the last available data, down from about 42.1 million in February 2017—the first full month Trump was in office.

Food stamps—renamed to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2008 to “fight stigma”—provide on average about $250 per household a month for grocery shopping.

Each state has different rules for eligibility, but in general, participants have to have low income. The benefit is also restricted for childless able-bodied adults between age 18 and 49, who can usually only collect it for three months every three years unless they work or train for a job at least 20 hours a week. States can waive the work requirements in areas with high unemployment or a job shortage.

Over Trump’s first 22 months, the government paid out more than $112 billion for SNAP, which was nearly $10.4 billion less than in the last 22 months of the Obama presidency. Trump would have saved even more if not for more than $2 billion—likely an unprecedented sum—sent in 2017 to hurricane-stricken Texas, Florida, Georgia, and the Virgin Islands, SNAP data indicates.

The SNAP enrollment reached its record high in December 2012, with close to 47.8 million people and nearly one in five households collecting the benefits. It’s been decreasing ever since, but decreased at a much slower pace under President Barack Obama than under Trump.

In the last 22 months of Obama’s term, the enrollment dropped by over 2.7 million, but that included a sudden drop of more than 770,000 in April 2016, when work requirements for able-bodied adults came into effect. Prior to that, the requirements were waived by most states, due to the 2008 recession.

Epoch Times reporter Petr Svab contributed to this report.

From NTD News

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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