- A proposed law in Alabama would require residents to be drug tested to receive food stamps.
- The bill, sponsored by Rep. State Senator James Hanes would require Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to be tested for drug abuse "if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person uses or is under the influence of a drug."
- A person who tests positively for drugs the first time around will receive a warning. After a second positive drug screening, the person will lose SNAP benefits for one year. By the third strike, the person will become permanently ineligible.
- The Alabama law isn’t the first to try and limit SNAP benefits. The federal government has also made various efforts, including proposed rule issued last month that would expand work requirements for SNAP recipients.
A proposed Alabama law would require food stamp recipients to be drug tested to receive critical benefits.
Under current state law, there is no requirement for beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to be drug tested, according to a synopsis of the bill, H.B. 3.
But, under H.B. 3, that could soon change. The bill, sponsored by Rep. State Senator James Hanes, would require SNAP benefits to be tested for substance abuse "if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person uses or is under the influence of a drug," the legislation states.
The federal SNAP program, administered by the US Department of Agriculture, offers nutritional assistance to low-income individuals and families nationwide. In 2016, the program provided about $1.25 billion in food benefits to more than 850,000 Alabamans each month, according to the Department of Agriculture. The year before, the program served almost 85 percent of those eligible for benefits across the state.
A person who tests positively for drugs the first time around will receive a warning, according to the bill. After a second positive drug screening, the person will lose SNAP benefits for one year. By the third strike, the person will become permanently ineligible.
If the SNAP recipient refuses to take a drug test — or delays the screening beyond the time set by the department — they will also become ineligible for benefits. The legislation adds that if the parent of a dependent child tests positive for drugs without a valid prescription, "the parent may designate a third party to receive the benefits for the benefit of the dependent child."
The bill, which was introduced last week, was referred to Alabama’s House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Hanes did not respond to emails and phone calls from INSIDER for comment. But, in a February Facebook post, he wrote, "my welfare reform legislation would reduce dependency upon government and eliminate food stamp fraud. It’s time to save hard earned taxpayer money."
Hanes also told the Montgomery Advertiser via email in January that "the working class citizens of this state have been asking for this type of legislation for years," adding that the bill would "give these people a sense of pride just knowing they are becoming more dependent upon themselves instead of the government."
The Alabama law isn’t the first to try and limit SNAP benefits. Last year, the Trump administration considered a plan that would allow states to require certain food stamp recipients to be drug tested, the Associated Press reported. The administration also included a proposal in its $867 billion farm bill to impose work requirements on adults using SNAP, according to The New York Times. That proposal was ultimately dropped by Republican and Democratic negotiators.
Most recently, the White House issued a proposed rule last month that would expand work requirements for SNAP recipients. Under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, and while able-bodied adults without dependents are typically limited to SNAP benefits for three months in a three-year period, the Department of Agriculture can waive the time limit in areas with unemployment rates over 10 percent or where there is a lack of sufficient jobs.
The new proposed rule would limit states’ ability to use those waivers and would allow the federal government to more strictly administer existing work requirements for SNAP recipients.
Around 775,000 people who rely on SNAP could lose benefits under the proposed rule, according to the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger.
"Long-term reliance on government assistance has never been part of the American dream," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a press release about the proposed rule. "As we make benefits available to those who truly need them, we must also encourage participants to take proactive steps toward self-sufficiency."
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