Should VA Welfare Recipients Be Drug Tested? - ABC 8NEWS - WRIC | Richmond, Virginia News & Weather

Should VA Welfare Recipients Be Drug Tested?

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Richmond, VA—A bill requiring welfare recipients suspected of using illegal drugs to be tested is making its way through the Virginia General Assembly, after a similar bill failed last year.

Senate Bill 721, dubbed "Substance Abuse Screening and Assessment of Public Assistance Applicants and Recipients," is nearly identical to a bill which failed last year, primarily due to the belief that it would cost the state too much.

The bill's proponents insist it would help prevent taxpayer dollars from funding drug dealers, but critics say it unfairly targets the poor.

"The majority of people who need some help and assistance are just like you and me," said Claire Gstanga of the ACLU of Virginia. "And they aren't druggies or people who are using drugs."

The bill would require anyone receiving public assistance and who is suspected of using drugs to either take a drug test, or to lose their benefits for one year.

A recent presentation by the Department of Social Services shows that substance abuse by welfare recipients is somewhat higher than those in the general population, but not greatly different.

A bill with similar measures in Florida, requiring all welfare recipients to be drug tested (not just those suspected of using drugs), cost the state $45,000. Out of these who were tested, less than 3% failed.

Virginia's bill will now be put up for a full vote in the Senate. Stay with 8News for updates.

Copyright 2013 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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