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Senator Jane Nelson: District 12
Senator Jane Nelson
P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2013
Contact: Megan Hanson
512-463-0112
SB 11 APPROVED BY SENATE COMMITTEE ON HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

AUSTIN — The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services today unanimously approved SB 11 by Texas State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to ensure that recipients of TANF, the temporary cash assistance program formerly known as welfare, are drug-free in accordance with TANF guidelines.

"Drug abuse destroys families, harms children and prevents individuals from living healthy, independent lives. Because TANF is a direct cash assistance program, we have a responsibility to ensure that these funds are not being used to support a person's drug habit. More importantly, we should have policies that are discouraging drug abuse rather than enabling it," Senator Nelson said.

The bill:

  • Requires new TANF applicants to undergo a controlled substance screening assessment;
  • Requires drug testing for any applicant with a felony drug conviction, an applicant who previously tested positive or an applicant whose screening assessment indicates good cause to suspect the person of use of a controlled substance;
  • Requires the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to pay for the cost of the screening assessment and drug test out of the state's federal TANF block grant funds;
  • Disqualifies adult applicants testing positive for drug use from TANF for 12 months, but allows applicants to reapply after 6 months if they have completed or are enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program; and
  • Allows the adult applicant's family to continue to receive services for 6 months - after which the adult must submit to a new drug test. A positive result would create a "protective payee" designated by HHSC to receive the family benefits and ensure they are used appropriately. The adult recipient would be permitted to reapply within 6 months if the applicant provides proof of successful completion of, or current enrollment in, a substance abuse treatment program.
  • After a third positive drug test, an adult applicant would be permanently barred from receiving TANF benefits. Family benefits would continue under the "protective payee" arrangement.

SB 11, which now moves to the full Senate, ensures that children will never lose TANF benefits. TANF serves more than 100,000 Texans at a cost of nearly $90 million a year. Before receiving TANF benefits, all adult recipients must sign a personal responsibility agreement in which they commit to remaining drug-free as they work to become self-sufficient.

SENATOR JANE NELSON represents District 12, including portions of Tarrant and Denton Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services.

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