BY MELANIE BUCK –
Some Arkansans that receive welfare benefits will now be subject to drug testing beginning this month. Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that what began as a pilot program for just a few counties, will now become a statewide program.
The new drug-screening program was set up through Act 1205 of 2015, commonly referred to as the Drug Screening and Testing Act of 2015.
Whether applying for Transitional Employment Assistance, also known as TEA, or for TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, screenings will be conducted and drug testing possible. Drug tests with negative results for illegal drugs would be paid for by the state. If a drug test comes back positive for illicit drugs, applicants would not lose their benefits, but they must enter a drug treatment program that has benchmarks to be met to allow applicants to continue receiving benefits. A positive drug test however would be paid for using the applicant’s government benefits.
Initial estimates projected by the Department of Workforce Services put implementation of the drug screening/drug testing program at around $1.7 million.