State Government and Welfare and Legislation and Government & Economic Development and Government

Food restrictions back in Indiana welfare bill draft

March 12, 2014

A contentious measure to screen and drug-test some welfare recipients and to limit food-stamp use to only "nutritional" foods has resurfaced in the Indiana General Assembly with little time left to vote on the bill.

Bill author Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, reinstated provisions in a proposal circulated Wednesday to screen all applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for the likelihood of addiction. Certain applicants then would be drug-ested.

The draft also adds back in a ban on buying foods not deemed "nutritional" by the state — such as sugary drinks or candy — with money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Senate changes to the bill eliminated the food benefits restrictions and limited drug tests to only applicants with prior drug convictions.

The constitutionality and feasibility of addiction screening and limits on SNAP benefits have been questioned as the bill moved through the House and Senate.

Critics say the bill would unfairly target the poor, while supporters argue it safeguards taxpayer dollars from being used to buy drugs and increases accountability for public assistance recipients.

The Legislature is expected to conclude its session Thursday.

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