Drug Testing Welfare Recipients: Recent Proposals and Continuing Controversies


In the years since welfare reform transformed federal cash assistance for the poor into to the time-limited, work-focused Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program, the issue of substance abuse among welfare recipients has arisen periodically as a policy and programmatic concern. This Issue Brief examines recent State and federal legislative proposals to require drug tests as a condition of TANF program eligibility. The paper discusses the prevalence of substance abuse among TANF recipients, how states typically address substance abuse in their welfare programs, the variety of drug testing proposals now under discussion in states, and legal and practical issues raised by drug testing proposals.

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