Plan would allow drug testing for food stamp recipients

President Donald Trump listens as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington Tuesday

The Trump administration is considering a plan that would allow states to require Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - formerly known as food stamps - recipients to undergo drug testing in order to receive benefits, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Specifically, the plan would require drug testing for able-bodied adults with no dependents who are applying for certain jobs.

And while nothing is set in stone as of yet, reports say that only five percent of snap users would be affected.

It argued that the federal government should "do everything within its authority to empower individuals by providing opportunities for work, including by investing in federal programs that are effective at moving people into the workforce and out of poverty".

Opponents like Ed Bolen, senior policy analyst at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, told the AP it the proposal teeters the thin line of legality because states technically aren't allowed to use drug tests as a condition of eligibility for the program. The report cites internal emails that show United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials have been preparing for an announcement since February.

The Trump administration is now considering a plan that includes drug testing.

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"Any kind of legislation you do to drug test people which is a common sense type of measure to make sure that the public assistance that the taxpayers are paying for goes to paying for actual food instead of paying for somebody's drug habit, but I think any kind of solution that we have has to be to help to make sure that person gets off drugs to get them the treatment they need; not be a punitive measure or a stick to be used against them". In 2014, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law a bill that required drug testing of SNAP applicants under "reasonable suspicion of substance abuse". Most Nebraskans getting benefits already work, but in low-paying jobs that can not sustain their families. "So while we agree we need to have more people working and have good supporting jobs, this is the wrong approach". According to USDA, over 16 million "able-bodied adults", with or without children, enrolled in SNAP in 2016.

"The problem is, they work in jobs that pay so little, so they still qualify for the benefit", he said.

In addition to the food stamp provisions, Thursday's farm bill also would renew the government's safety net for agricultural producers, as farm country endures a downturn and as Trump's tough talk on tariffs threatens a trade war that could depress commodity prices. "The cost of drug testing will far exceed the number of people that they will find", he said.

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said he supports the proposal, which he said will give more SNAP recipients the resources to join a growing economy.

At least 15 states have passed, or attempted to pass, similar laws, with mixed results. Drug testing for cash welfare, meanwhile, has been in place since Clinton's welfare reform.

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