Trump Might Require Drug Test For Welfare Benefits
Right now, 42 million Americans use SNAP, and there’s a good chance that Trump will spring a surprise press conference to announce that able-bodied adults taking benefits will have to undergo drug testing before getting paid.
Leaked emails from the Department of Agriculture show that the people responsible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are preparing for an announcements on drug testing at a moment’s notice. Under Obama era rules, states have been denied permission from the federal government to drug test people applying for SNAP, even though some states are able to require that people taking other forms of welfare payments must prove up on their abstention from illegal drugs.
Based on leaked emails and an executive order signed this week, the initial proposal for drug testing will be narrow in scope and will apply to people who are able-bodied and do not have dependents. As well, it will focus on people who are applying for specialized jobs. One official estimates that the drug testing proposal will affect about 5% of the people currently receiving SNAP.
Yesterday we reported that Donald Trump had signed an executive order asking Departments that are involved with the administration of welfare benefits to research and respond with possible improvements to assistance programs within 90 days. One of the departments involved is the Dept. of Agriculture, which is responsible for SNAP and which has been in the news recently for suggesting that some food stamp users may be migrated to a Harvest Box which would contain shelf-stable food necessities.
Within the Dept. of Agriculture, associate administrator Jessica Shahin wrote in an email that she was concerned about the timing on an announcement on the drug testing question:
“I think we just have to be ready because my guess is we may get an hour’s notice instead of a day’s notice.”
Freed States To Allow Medicaid Work Requirements
While there are federal laws that prevent states from creating their own conditions and requirements for people applying for food stamps, in January Donald Trump handed states back the ability to make demands of people who are on Medicaid.
So far, New Hampshire has responded by requiring that all able-bodied people taking Medicaid must work part-time hours to order to qualify.
Obama Admin Blocked Drug Testing
In 2015, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker sued the USDA for allegedly blocking his state from requiring drug tests for the adults who were applying for food stamps. The suit was thrown out in 2016, and after Trump won the election Walker made another request for permission. But, since it was received before Trump took over, the request was turned down.
According to former USDA Food and Nutrition Service Undersecretary Kevin Concannon, who was installed by Barack Obama in 2009 and lost his job when Trump took office:
“We turned [Walker’s request] down. [Drug testing is] costly and cumbersome.”
Further, Concannon believes that Trump is:
“…keen on weakening the programs developed to strengthen the health or fairness or access to programs and imposing populist requirements that aren’t evidence based, but often stigmatize people.”
That is, Obama’s flunky is angry that Trump wants to do something that’s popular with the citizens whose taxes are paying for the program.
In Florida in 2014, a higher court upheld a ruling that state that it was unconstitutional for the state to demand drug testing for people taking SNAP.
Progressives Crying About Change
The 2018 farm bill is set to be released soon, and most of the spending on the bill goes towards SNAP funding. A few weeks ago, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, a Democrat from Minnesota said that the farm bill negotiations were being brought down by the “extreme, partisan policies” of the Republicans.
Another leftie, Ed Bolen from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities think tank says that drug testing will hurt “vulnerable populations.”
“Are people losing their food assistance if they don’t take the test, and in that case, is that a condition of eligibility, which the states aren’t allow to impose?”
The answer is simple: Allow the states to impose the conditions. Employment opportunities vary wildly by state and by county.
SNAP Fraud A Campaign Promise
During Trump’s presidential campaign addressed welfare abuse and updating the system with a focus on people who need a hand-up.
Right now, the USDA appears to be working on new policies in response to the likely upcoming changes, including downgrading a policy currently on the go in 42 states that automatically gives SNAP eligibility to households that already qualify for job training and childcare.
Sources: The Hill, Fox News, Associated Press