Lawmakers are considering a proposal from the LePage administration that would require all applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program take a written test to see whether they are likely to be a drug abuser. If the screening indicates that they are, they would have to submit to drug testing or lose access to benefits.
Chris Hastedt of the low-income advocacy group Maine Equal Justice Partners says the bill is likely unconstitutional.
“In our view, they only result in shaming families living in poverty and discouraging them from applying for benefits for which they are eligible and that they need,” she says.
Supporters say they do not want to in any way discourage people from seeking benefits. They say the intent of the bill is to get people into treatment as soon as possible.
“The intent of this legislation is not to be punitive and deny benefits to individuals in need of help. Instead, it gives the department the authority to use a tool to assess and identify who is and who isn’t at risk for substance abuse,” says Republican state Rep. Deborah Sanderson of Chelsea, sponsor of the bill.