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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Debated In Olympia

OLYMPIA, Wash. – People seeking welfare assistance could face a drug test before they receive any benefits, under a bill in Olympia. Thursday, Washington lawmakers heard debate over a drug test requirement that would kick in early in the application process, if caseworkers feel it’s necessary.

Republican Rep. Jan Angel said this measure would encourage addicts to get help before receiving benefits.

“We can get someone into rehab or into treatment, and we can still feed the family.”

Bob Cooper from the Washington Defender Association spoke against this measure. He said welfare recipients with an addiction already attend treatment with regular drug tests.

“Why do we want to delay and add another step in this process and deny them the help that they’re asking for?”

Under the bill, people who refuse to take the drug test may lose all or a portion of their benefits. This additional requirement could cost an estimated $24,000 over the next two years.

On the Web:

HB 1190: Drug testing requirement - Washington Legislature