TANF and unemployment payments to enforce drug testing

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Governor Sam Brownback signed into law today legislation requiring recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and unemployment payments to undergo drug testing if there is reasonable suspicion they are using illegal substance.

“Government payments should help families going through difficult times, not further illegal drug use,” said Senator Jeff King (R-Independence), sponsor of SB149. “This legislation will ensure that public funds go to the children who need them the most, while providing addiction treatment to adults with substance abuse problems.”

In January, King introduced SB149 to prohibit individuals who fail a drug test from receiving TANF benefits until they have completed drug treatment and job skills training programs. A second failed drug test would prohibit the recipient from receiving benefits for one year and require additional drug treatment and job skills training. Recipients who fail a third drug test would be permanently suspended from receiving TANF benefits.

The treatment programs required by SB149 would be covered entirely by existing federal Medicaid and TANF funds. SB149 does not place the cost of treatment on either Kansas taxpayers or the person who tests positive for use of illegal substances. Although a person who tests positive for illegal substances would not receive government assistance until the completion of this treatment program, qualifying children would continue to receive all TANF funds as administered by a drug-free third-party.

“SB149 is the most treatment focused drug testing bill in the country,” said King. “By providing both drug treatment and job skills training, SB149 will help those on public assistance kick their drug addiction and learn the skills they need to obtain and keep a good-paying job.”

Neosho County Community College in Chanute developed Partners in Change, the job skills training program that served as the model for SB149. Since its inception, Partners in Change has proven effective at helping the chronically unemployed learn the skills necessary to get and keep employment. At an average cost of $750 per participant, Partners in Change has a 72 percent program completion and/or employment success rate.

“The Partners in Change program has made a tremendous impact on the lives of over 300 people in Southeast Kansas,” said Neosho County Community College President, Dr. Brian Inbody. “NCCC is very proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to opportunity to helping people across the state thanks to SB149.”

Current law requires employers to report illegal drug use by existing employees, disqualifying that employee from receiving unemployment benefits. SB149 will expand that requirement, mandating potential employers who have a job applicant fail or refuse to take a drug test, as part of the hiring process, report that outcome to the Kansas Department of Labor. Failure or refusal by a job applicant to take a drug test would result in the individual losing their unemployment benefits until they complete drug treatment and job skills training programs.

During hearings on SB149, Don Alexander, owner of Alexander Manufacturing in Parsons and President-elect, of SEK, Inc., testified in favor of this legislation. “SB149 will help employers fill open positions and help people qualify for those positions, benefitting our families, communities and the state,” said Alexander.

SB149 will go into effect on July 1, 2013.

Senator King was elected to represent the 15th Senate District in 2010. King won re-election to the Kansas Senate in 2012, representing all of Neosho County and the vast majority of Labette and Montgomery counties. King lives in Independence with his wife, Kimberly, and two children, Amelie and Alec.

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