Under the Trump administration, states may soon be allowed to require some people on food stamps to pass a drug test before they can receive their benefits, reviving a pointless and stigmatizing policy that has always been favored in conservative circles.
The Trump administration is weighing a proposal that would apply mostly to people who are able-bodied, without dependents and applying for some specialized jobs.
The food stamps programs is officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The food box plan was tucked into the Trump administration's proposed 2019 budget, which included cutting the SNAP program by $213 billion over the next 10 years.
"I think in general, the approach they're taking is right", says Rus Sykes, an expert on food stamps for the American Public Human Services Association.
For years, conservative lawmakers at both the federal and state levels have been pushing efforts to have welfare recipients drug-tested.
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Congress is considering requiring them to work 20 hours per week to get the benefits.
There's a push for stricter requirements on some people who get food stamps; specifically able-bodied people. As of 2017, only five states - Colorado, Delaware, Michigan, South Dakota, and Texas - have made a similar commitment. States would also be required to provide training slots for every SNAP participant who needs one.
Some households would see a slight boost in benefits because government offices would now subtract a larger percentage of their earned income when calculating people's benefits.
Even among this narrow group, states are unlikely to find much drug use. If someone is addicted to drugs, most people think they need help and support, not to have their benefits ripped away. The Trump administration has sought to add work requirements, either through waivers or legislation, for other programs, such as Medicaid and federal housing assistance. At least 15 states passed laws allowing drug testing for recipients of temporary assistance. In a press release heralding the order, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue seemed to imply that millions more SNAP recipients should face additional work requirements, too. The bulk of the bill's spending goes toward funding SNAP, which often proves the most contentious part of negotiations; late last month, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., issued a statement on behalf of Democrats denouncing "extreme, partisan policies being advocated by the majority".