Food stamps recipients in Alabama may soon be required to pass a drug test in order to receive their monthly benefits.
The bill, filed by Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Bryant) on Tuesday, would allow beneficiaries of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, to be tested for illicit substances if there is “a reasonable suspicion” the individual is using or under the influence of drugs, AL.com reports.
Under existing Alabama law, residents aren’t legally required to be tested for drugs in order to apply for or receive SNAP benefits. The newly proposed House Bill 3 would change that, however, in addition to requiring applicants to disclose ” … under penalty of perjury, [any] criminal conviction related to the use or distribution of a drug.”
The first positive drug test would result in a warning, the bill states. An individual who tests positive for illegal drugs more than once would be denied benefits for up to a year after the initial positive screening. On the third strike, eligibility is denied for good.
The bill also states that should the parent of a dependent child test positive for drugs, they “may designate a third party to receive the benefits for the benefit of the dependent child.” Moreover, the state would reimburse applicants — whom the bill would force to bear upfront test costs — for their drug screenings should their test come back negative.
A beneficiary who refuses drug testing or delays a screening would be ineligible for SNAP benefits, the proposal notes.
The bill was referred to the state’s House Judiciary Committee on Thursday and, if passed, would take effect on the 15th day of the “third month following its passage” and approval by Gov. Kay Ivey. So far, at least 15 states have passed similar measures allowing them to drug test government welfare recipients.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly 804,000 Alabama residents, or 17 percent of the state’s population received SNAP benefits in 2017 — over 73 percent of which went to low-income families with children. Statistical Atlas data showed the benefits reached 30 percent of Black households, 20 percent of Latino household and 10 percent of white households.