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NC Senate gives nod to drug testing requirement for welfare

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Changes to North Carolina's welfare program are one step closer to reality.
     
The Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve a bill that would demand drug testing for people applying for and receiving benefits in the state's "Work First" program.
     
People would have to pay for them upfront, but if they pass, will be reimbursed.
    
Those who fail would have to wait about a year to reapply, after completing a treatment program on their own dime.
     
The measure now goes to the House.

--- Original Story ---

North Carolina senators introduce a controversial new bill that would require people looking to receive assistance from the state to be drug tested.

Currently, our state requires drug test for people applying for the state assistance program; Work First, only if they are known to have a drug problem. Now some of our state legislators say drug testing should be a mandatory before qualifying to get for help from the state.

Last week, North Carolina senator Jim Davis, introduced the bill.

Under the proposed bill, people applying for Work First would have to pay for the drug test up front. If they test negative, the state will pay them back through their benefits. If they test positive, they are required to seek treatment in order to receive assistance.

 Kenneth Phillips receives federal assistance, and he thinks this is a good idea.

"To make sure they ain't misusing stamps; yeah get a background check, check them out. Do you do drugs? Give them a test, yeah," said Phillips.

North Carolina's American Civil Liberties Union Policy Director, Sarah Preston, says it puts an extra burden on those already struggling and taxpayers.

"So only a couple of states have done this. Most states realize that the costs of performing drug tests on thousands of people are going to be higher than you would ever say by this kind of program. It's incredibly costly to implement," said Preston

If the bill is passed, North Carolina would join seven other states that have passed similar bills.

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