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April 17, 2013

Scott against proposed welfare legislation

Bill will require welfare recipients to undergo drug test and criminal background checks

TARBORO — Edgecombe County Department of Social Service Director Marva Scott is totally against a pair of bills that would require welfare recipients to undergo drug tests and criminal background checks advanced April 8 in the North Carolina General Assembly.

A House bill that received bipartisan support on the full floor requires all county Department of Social Services offices to perform background checks to bar applicants and recipients with outstanding warrants or other active violations from welfare and food stamp programs. A Senate bill that cleared a committee vote over the objections of Democratic lawmakers and advocates would require drug screenings for welfare applicants and recipients at their own expense.     

Applicants and recipients in the state’s Work First program who pass the screening would be reimbursed in future assistance payments. Those who fail could reapply in a year after completing a treatment program at their own expense and passing a drug test.

Work First provides cash assistance and job training through the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.

"That's not a good idea," Scott said. "A lot of our clients cannot afford to pay for the treatment even if it costs $25 or $30. It going to hurt more than the clients. It going to hurt the children also and then we will have more issues to deal with.

"I hope that they look at the whole picture. If our clients can't get assistance, it could lead to other illegal activities. I hope this bill doesn't get the support it needs to pass into law."

Opponents have expressed concerns that the bill creates an unsafe environment for DSS employees and burdens them with new responsibilities. Supporters counter that the bill helps ensure compliance with federal law. They also argue that the new requirements will become routine for workers and help the justice system through greater coordination.  

Scott said the bill would place more work on her employees. She said DSS administers assistance to hundreds of clients per months. "We don't have the staff to take on any additional duties."

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