Gov. Perry, Lawmakers Call for Drug Screening for TANF, UI Applicants

Gov. Rick Perry was joined by Sen. Tommy Williams, Rep. Brandon Creighton and other lawmakers to call for reforms to the state’s welfare and unemployment benefit programs, including authorizing drug screenings for those applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. Sen. Jane Nelson has pre-filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session to require drug screening for TANF applicants, and Sen. Williams plans to file a bill to require drug screening for UI applicants. They were also joined by representatives from the Texas Association of Business and National Federation of Independent Business.

“Texas taxpayers will not subsidize or tolerate illegal drug abuse. Every dollar that goes to someone who uses it inappropriately is a dollar that can’t go to a Texan who needs it for housing, child care or medicine,” Gov. Perry said. “Being on drugs makes it much harder to begin the journey to independence, which only assures individuals remain stuck in the terrible cycle of drug abuse and poverty.”

“Unemployment benefits are intended for those who are out of work through no fault of their own,” Sen. Williams said. “A claimant who has passed a screening for illegal drug use will be more employable and able to return to work more quickly. It’s important that recipients of these benefits are drug free, on a path to self-sufficiency, and ready to work.”

“Giving unemployment insurance assistance to those on drugs only harms that individual by enabling bad behavior. Instead, we want to enact good public policy that helps these individuals by encouraging them down the path toward self-sufficiency,” Sen. Craig Estes said. “We must do everything we can to ensure that our precious tax dollars are not being spent on those who will use it to abuse drugs. I look forward to working alongside Sen. Williams on this important welfare reform bill.”

The governor noted that the purpose of TANF and UI is to provide temporary assistance to individuals and families, not a permanent replacement for employment. Drug testing ensures individuals are using these benefits for their intended purpose, and that individuals are ready and available for employment by remaining drug free.

“I appreciate Gov. Perry’s support as we work to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used responsibly in our welfare system,” Sen. Nelson said. “We must ensure that recipients of these public funds are drug-free and, in keeping with the mission of this program, on a path to self-sufficiency.”

“By doing what we can to ensure taxpayer dollars are not being misused by unemployment benefit recipients, we also do a service to the business owners and taxpayers who make it possible for us to lend a helping hand,” Rep. Creighton said.

TANF provides temporary cash assistance to needy families with children as families pursue financial independence. UI benefits are paid to eligible individuals from taxes paid by employers. The system insures employees against loss of wages when they lose their job through no fault of their own, providing financial assistance for a fixed period of time while the individual seeks new employment.

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