In another attempt by House Republicans to oppress the neediest of families, Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) and House Republicans hope to infringe the privacy of these Americans with a bill they proposed last week. Their proposed bill, the Welfare Integrity Act of 2013, requires low-income parents provided relief under the program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to surrender to random drug testing. TANF is a program that helps move recipients into work by aiding families with dependent children. The program temporarily assists unfortunate parents with children by granting them welfare for living essentials such as rent, heat and utilities.
The bill requires the participating states validate that all applicants and recipients of the welfare are subject to random drug testing. In an attempt to be constitutionally sound, applicants are given the choice to sign a consent form that waives their Fourth Amendment rights and yield to random drug testing.
These low-income families being aided by TANF, if Rep. Fisher gets his way, will be subject to random drug testing. Failing this drug test would result in suspension of the aid provided by TANF. Fincher said in a recent statement, “By allowing random drug checks, we can ensure families who receive TANF benefits use them for their intended purpose of feeding, clothing, and providing shelter for their children, while cutting the tie that enables drug abuse.”
Recently, a bill similar to the Welfare Integrity Act of 2013 was proposed by Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida. His plan was immediately shot down by an Appellate Court and rendered intrusive of citizens Fourth Amendment rights. Not only did the Court find that the plan was invasive but in the 4 months that his costly plan had been in effect, only 2 percent of the welfare recipients had tested positive for drugs, demonstrating that these plans are responding to a nonexistent problem. Along with Florida, Michigan also attempted to implement a drug test on recipients of welfare. They too, were stopped by the Court and deemed unconstitutional.
Sara Papantonio is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.