Bill Requires Welfare, Food Stamp Drug Checks

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina Senate Republicans are pushing a new bill requiring drug screening for welfare applicants and current recipients who reapply for assistance.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the proposal Tuesday that would require applicants to undergo drug screening at their own cost. They would be paid back if they tested negative for controlled substances.

Current law requires welfare recipients with diagnosed substance abuse problems to participate in a treatment program and submit to drug testing to continue qualifying for benefits.

Democrats and advocacy groups opposed the changes, arguing they unfairly target poor people when they need help the most. They say similar policies in other states haven't worked.

Another Republican-sponsored bill requiring criminal background checks for welfare recipients and applicants is scheduled for a full House vote Tuesday.

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Some North Carolina legislators want social service workers to perform criminal checks on welfare and food stamp requests to ensure law-abiding people get federal benefits first.

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted Tuesday to require county Department of Social Services offices to conduct criminal history checks on people applying for benefits or for their renewal. The DSS office also would have to tell law enforcement if an applicant has outstanding warrants.

Republican Rep. Dean Arp of Monroe says the idea came to him after his local DSS agency was told it could not provide such criminal information to sheriff's deputies because of confidentiality concerns.

Federal law prohibits people on the lam for a felony or for probation or parole violations from receiving public assistance.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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