Senate Democrats Defeat Discriminatory Bill to Drug Test Low Income Virginians Receiving State Assistance

A bill introduced by Senator Carrico would have made TANF applicants who refuse to participate in periodic drug screenings or who test positive for illegal substances ineligible to receive benefits for 12 months under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. With Republican Senator Blevins not voting, the bill was narrowly defeated yesterday by a 20-19 vote along party lines.


This measure unfairly targets participants in TANF, as it is the only form of government assistance in which drug testing is required. Senator Favola spoke in opposition to this bill before the Senate today, saying, “These are unfair and punitive measures that single out struggling Virginians simply because they are poor. In fact, studies show that welfare recipients have a lower percentage of illegal drug use than the general population. As a taxpayer, I believe money should not be spent on a problem that does not exist.  I would rather spend these administrative dollars on job training programs for TANF moms.”


Also mentioned on the Senate floor today was the case of Florida, where a measure similar to this legislation was executed.  Florida found this practice to be highly unsuccessful, resulting in no direct savings and ultimately finding very few drug users in the state assistance program. Senator Saslaw noted that, “The savings were ten times less than the cost to do the drug testing.” 


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