USDA Declares Georgia’s Food Stamp Drug Testing Law to be Illegal
(APN) ATLANTA — We told you so. As it turns out, State Rep. Greg Morris’s (R-Vidalia) House Bill 772–requiring food stamp recipients to be drug tested if a state worker had a so-called “reasonable suspicion” that the recipient might be using drugs–is illegal.
Food Stamp caseworkers are not trained to detect drug use and “reasonable suspicion” is not defined.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, Florida’s similar law had already been declared unconstitutional by a federal court.
What a waste of taxpayer money to pursue such a mean-spirited bill to deny food to poor people, especially since most food stamp recipients are children, and elderly and disabled citizens in Georgia.
The law–which passed the State House and Senate and was signed by the Governor–would have gone into effect on July 01, 2014, except that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the law violates federal policy.
Robin Bailey, Regional Administrator of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) wrote a letter to Keith Horton, Commissioner of the Department of Human Services in Georgia, to reaffirm longstanding federal policy on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamp program.
“FNS policy prohibits States from mandating drug testing of SNAP applicants and recipients. Section 5(b) of the Food and Nutrition Act and 7 C.F.R. and 273.2(a) expressly prohibit States from imposing additional standards of eligibility for SNAP participation. Requiring SNAP applicants and recipients to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits would constitute an additional condition of eligibility, and therefore, is not allowable under law,” Bailey’s letter states, according to a copy obtained by APN.
A few years ago, the State of Florida tested over 4,000 temporary assistance for needy family (TANF) recipients and about 100 tested positive. It was a waste of time and money. As the federal court found, there is no evidence that poor people are more inclined to engage in criminal behavior than the general population.
Next Session, perhaps taxpayer money could be better used to drug test our representatives before they legislate their fears and stereotypes of poor people, at taxpayers’ expense. If they are looking for corruption, maybe they should start with themselves.