TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Some recipients of welfare and unemployment benefits would have to undergo drug testing, under a proposal from one state lawmaker.
Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, officially introduced the measure Wednesday. Under SB 149, people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Familiies (TANF) and unemployment payments would be required to undergo drug testing if there is "reasonable suspicion" they are using illegal substances.
“Many of my friends and neighbors in southeast Kansas have expressed great concern about the use of government payments to further illegal drug use,” King said in a news release detailing the bill. “Given the gravity of the illegal drug use plaguing our state, the Legislature must act now to address this problem.”
Under King's plan, a person who fails a drug test would have to complete drug treatment and job skills training programs. If the person fails a second time, they would not be able to receive benefits for one year and would have to complete additional treatment and training. Those who fail a third drug test would have benefits permanently suspended.
King proposes using existing TANF money to pay for the treatment and training programs. He also answers a criticism that such a policy would unfairly punish children of recipients by allowing for a drug-free third party to receive and administer TANF funds for qualifying children.
“This proposal is not intended to be punitive,” King said. “I will do everything in my power to make certain the end result is a responsible approach to help individuals overcome drug addiction while ensuring the proper use of government assistance.”
The bill also requires employers to report to the Kansas Dept. of Labor any job applicant who fails or refuses to take a drug test as part of the hiring process. Those individuals would then be ineligible for unemployment benefits until they completed training and treatment.
King introduced the measure in the Senate Commerce Committee. No hearing dates are set for it yet.