Background Checks For Welfare Passes NC House -

Background Checks For Welfare Passes NC House

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Updated: April 11, 2013

The North Carolina House has approved a bill mandating background checks for welfare recipients.

The bill that passed 106-6 Thursday requires all social services employees to perform background checks to bar applicants and recipients with outstanding warrants or other active violations from welfare and food stamp programs. Employees would have to report them to law enforcement.

Bill sponsor Rep. Dean Arp, a Republican from Monroe, noted the federal government already prohibits giving public assistance to fleeing felons and others with active violations.

Arp appeased many opponents after providing assurances that county offices won't shoulder additional costs. Some Democrats previously expressed concern about creating new burdens for social services employees and the perception that the bill unfairly singles out poor people for distrust.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

Posted: April 9, 2013

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.

The N.C. Association of County Directors of Social Services says it supports the tests, it it's done by a case-by-case basis.

The association released this statement:

"The North Carolina Association of County Directors of Social Services supports drug testing of Work First Applicants on a case by case basis. For example, requiring drug tests prior to placing a participant into a subsidized job makes sense because we need to be sure the person placed into a job is drug free and work ready. DSS agencies already do screening for substance abuse and refer persons for treatment as they apply for Work First Assistance. We are concerned regarding the drug testing of all applicants due to the significant costs involved. We are also concerned about applicants having to pay the upfront costs of drug testing when they are applying for the assistance as a last resort to begin with and in most instances these families simply do not have money to pay for the testing themselves. Our concern is that this may serve as a barrier to families applying and receiving the assistance they need. We are also concerned with what funding is used to reimburse the applicants given the shortage of Federal, State, and County funding in general."

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

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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