Action Alert — Indiana HB 1351
LUM Campaign for Hoosier Families—Action Alert
INDIANA HB 1351 – YOU DO THE NUMBERS!
HB 1351 would require the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) to administer a drug-testing program for individuals receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance on behalf of a child. If the bill goes through, TANF families would lose their benefits if the head of household is determined to be predisposed to substance abuse based on a written test. According to the Indiana Legislative Agency the cost of the program over two years is estimated to be $1.18 M to $1.38 M while the savings based on the reduction of eligible individuals is estimated to be $521,000. According to the math, the costs outweigh the benefits almost 3 to 1.
Here are 10 things you need to know about Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
- In order to qualify for cash assistance a family of four may not receive more than $346.50 a month.
- Families may not possess more than $1,000 in assets other than housing.
- Beneficiaries must be a United States citizen or a green card holder residing in the US for more than 5 years.
- Benefits have a lifetime cap of 60 months.
- Heads of household who receive benefits must participate in 20 hours of mandatory job training, job search or work hours weekly. Failure to complete the “applicant job search” program without good cause will result in the denial of the application for cash assistance.
- 11,785 families received TANF cash assistance last year.
- In the past year families receiving TANF assistance decreased 20% to 26% depending on type of family.
- 26,364 Hoosier receive TANF. 23,128 or 79% are children.
- The average monthly benefit was $187.6 for a child-only or one-parent and $210.32 for a two parent household.
- In Fiscal Year 2013, the total outlay for TANF cash assistance was $2,227,879 all of which came from federal funds.
The bill, which was voted out of the House on a party line vote, also includes a provision that SNAP benefits be redeemed exclusively for healthy food and beverages and authorizes the Department of Workforce Development to submit a report to the Legislative Council and the Unemployment Insurance Oversight Committee concerning certain unemployment topics which LUM and its Campaign For Hoosier Families supports. However, the provisions requiring drug testing of persons receiving assistance from TANF and that the information be shared with the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) and any division of the FSSA that implements the Federal SNAP program doesn’t add up and can only be summed up as harassment of low income families, especially when you take into account that only 2% of TANF applicants in Florida tested positive which included those individuals who refused to be tested. The Center for Disease Control reports that the drug use in the general population is much higher and that almost 1 in 10 persons test positive for controlled substances. Furthermore, the legislation calls for a written test known as the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI). SASSI was designed to identify people who warrant more careful evaluation not determines whether someone is a current drug user. The SASSI Institute recommends that an individual determined to potentially have a substance abuse problem be referred for treatment as part of the services they receive from public assistance agency. Despite the enormous price tag for drug testing and the premise that it helps families, HB 1351 does not provide funding assistance for entering and completing a certified treatment program but instead makes TANF eligibility contingent upon doing so. The proponents of the bill might seem more earnest in their concern for low income families if it was coupled with Medicaid Expansion and didn’t directly penalize the children of ineligible parents.
IU Professor and former ICLU executive Director Sheila Kennedy came to the following conclusion in her blog last week title You thought HJR3 Was Dumb: “[Given that] we have already made the process so difficult and demeaning that only 2.9% of impoverished Hoosiers participate, it’s hard to escape the suspicion that our legislators not only don’t want to help poor folks–they want to punish them for being poor.”
The only conclusion you can come to this is that that the math doesn’t add up. If this is your conclusion as well, please contact your Senator by going to the website and tell him or her that the math doesn’t add up and to vote against the drug testing provision in HR1351.
As you may recall, drug testing TANF recipients sailed through the Indiana General Assembly last year but died in the Senate because of your emails, phone calls, and letters opposing it. Time is short! The 2014 General Assembly ends March 14th.
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