AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst today called on the Texas Legislature to enact reforms to the state’s welfare and unemployment benefit programs, including authorizing drug screenings for those applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. State Sen. Jane Nelson has pre-filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session to require drug screening for TANF applicants.
“Texas taxpayers will not subsidize or tolerate illegal drug abuse. Every dollar that goes to someone who uses it inappropriately is a dollar that can’t go to a Texan who needs it for housing, child care or medicine,” Gov. Perry said. “Being on drugs makes it much harder to begin the journey to independence, which only assures individuals remain stuck in the terrible cycle of drug abuse and poverty.”
“We owe it to Texas taxpayers to structure our welfare and unemployment programs in a way that guarantees recipients are serious about getting back to work,” Lt. Gov. Dewhurst said. “It's beneficial to welfare recipients for us to reform and strengthen our job training requirements and require them to be drug-free so that we can help them get back on their feet and back to work.”
The governor noted that the purpose of TANF and UI is to provide temporary assistance to individuals and families, not a permanent replacement for employment. Drug testing ensures individuals are using these benefits for their intended purpose, and that individuals are ready and available for employment by remaining drug free.
“I appreciate Gov. Perry's support as we work to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used responsibly in our welfare system,” Sen. Nelson said. “We must ensure that recipients of these public funds are drug-free and, in keeping with the mission of this program, on a path to self-sufficiency.”
TANF provides temporary cash assistance to needy families with children as families pursue financial independence. UI benefits are paid to eligible individuals from taxes paid by employers. The system insures employees against loss of wages when they lose their job through no fault of their own, providing financial assistance for a fixed period of time while the individual seeks new employment.