CORNING, AR (KAIT) - On Monday the Arkansas Senate voted 24-3 to approve Senate Bill 600 by Sen. Blake Johnson (R-Corning) requiring the Department of Workforce Services to drug-test people who receive assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
A drug test would only be administered if there was reasonable cause for suspicion of drug use.
If the person tested positive, they would be responsible for the costs. If negative, the state would pay for the test.
Children under the age of 18 would be exempt from the drug screening and testing requirement.
A person who tests positive for illegal drugs would be ineligible for benefits; however, they would not be denied benefits for prescription drugs and dependent child would not be denied benefits because of the parent's test results.
Johnson said his constituents asked him to create the measure, and many of those in Corning are proud of Johnson's bill and agree it is necessary.
"Yes, I sure do," Joe Bettis said. "There are so many of them out there probably getting assistance that really don't need it."
"I think that anybody that's going to be getting state income or help from anybody, they should have to pass a drug test," Doris Wiedeman said.
Senator David Burnett (D-Osceola) was among those who opposed the measure,
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports an average of 13,068 Arkansans received TANF benefits in 2014. Of those, 9,474 were children.
According to the Kids Count Data Center, in Johnson's home county of Clay 56 adults and 139 children received TANF assistance in 2013.
Some worry this will cost the state extra money, but Senator Johnson said he believes by only testing those who show signs of drug use will limit the number of tests administered and save money.