House Republican Introduces Bill Allowing for Drug Testing of Food Stamp Recipients

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives would, if passed, allow for drug testing of food stamp recipients going forward.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) introduced a bill (H.R. 4540) he said is a “compassionate way” to provide clarity regarding states’ ability to manage the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and to provide states with funding to treat drug addiction in the SNAP population. The bill includes the means to issue drug tests to recipients.

“Millions of hard working Americans get up to go to work in factories, on farms and other places to pay the taxes that provide welfare assistance to those that qualify,” Aderholt, chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over SNAP, said in a statement released Friday. “This is meant to be temporary assistance, not a way of life. Many major employers and small businesses require applicants to pass a drug test, this bill will ensure that welfare recipients are job-ready.”

“If a welfare recipient has the money to buy drugs then they have the money to buy food. The federal government should not be enabling people to fund their drug addiction at taxpayer expense,” Aderholt added.

“This bill provides states with the ability to identify those who are gaming the system as well as those who are struggling with addiction. For those struggling, it provides funds to assist states in providing drug treatment,” the congressman continued. “The goal is not only to break welfare recipients’ dependence on government programs but also on their addiction to drugs.”

The bill is meant to give the states more power over who and how SNAP benefits are administered, and Anderholt insists the bill could save the federal government $1.2 billion in expenditures.

The food assistance program serves more than 46 million Americans and last year cost $74 billion. That is twice the cost from 2008. Since Obama came to office, the SNAP rolls have increased at a dramatic rate. Last year, for instance, it was reported the SNAP rolls exceeded 46,000,000 for more than 40 straight months.

As to Anderholt’s own state, Alabama pays out over $109 million in benefits annually. The Yellow Hammer State also recovered $4.5 million in food stamp fraud in 2013 alone.

This bill wouldn’t be the first bill to allow for drug testing of welfare recipients. Drug testing is already permitted in the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, a small assistance program serving 1.6 million Americans.

The Alabama Republican said he wanted to try and push this through as a stand-alone bill, but could add it to the agriculture spending bill he heads up in Congress.

The bill comes on the heels of news of mixed results for a program of drug testing welfare recipients in North Carolina.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at


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