Should Food Stamp Recipients Have to be Drug Tested?

A Trump administration plan to require people who receive food stamps, what are now called SNAP benefits, to first undergo drug testing is getting major push back from groups that work with the poor, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Eric Cooper, President of the San Antonio Food Bank, works with food stamp recipients every day.  He says first of all, there is not the level of fraud in the system that many people, including President Trump, believe.

"Could you imagine the cost associated with executing drug testing," he asked.  "That is just a tremendous expense."

He says worry about people gaming the food stamp system has prompted several states to try this in the past, including Texas.

He says a decade ago, Texas lawmakers passed a bill requiring fingerprinting of recipients to receive food stamps, in an effort to end double dipping.

Cooper says the program was cancelled, because no fraud was found.

"And so the state legislature made the decision to discontinue finger imaging, because it was not a valid strategy."

The current proposal is only to drug test people who are looking for specialized jobs which require drug testing at the workplace, like construction workers and medical personnel.  That proposal was also tried in Texas a decade ago, on the idea that food stamps are supposed to be a 'bridge,' to help people overcome brief hard times, and if a person is taking illegal drugs, they will not be able to qualify for a job and hence are not holding up their part of the agreement.

Cooper says it is easy to stigmatize welfare recipients.

"I am offended," he said.  "It is wrong to think that just because you are poor, and just because you lost your job, you need to be drug tested."

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