AUGUSTA - Governor Paul R. LePage announced Wednesday the State of Maine is moving forward with its plan to conduct drug tests of convicted drug felons who are applying for or receiving welfare benefits.
Over the last several months, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has focused on designing its drug-testing measures to ensure privacy and fairness, while reinforcing accountability and integrity in the program. The tests will be required of drug felons who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.
"Maine people expect their tax dollars to be spent supporting our most vulnerable citizens - children, the elderly and the disabled," said Governor Paul LePage. "We must ensure that our tax dollars do not enable the continuation of a drug addiction. "TANF is a short-term benefit that assists families and children with the basic necessities. If someone tests positive for drugs, they are clearly putting their addiction ahead of their family's needs. Being drug-free is a critical aspect of moving away from poverty and toward self-sufficiency. We must do all that we can to make ensure children's needs are being met and that the TANF recipient has the best possible chance at economic independence."
When a person applies for benefits, the individual must report whether he or she has a prior drug-related felony conviction. If the answer is yes, the State will schedule a drug test and notify the individual 24 hours prior to the actual test.
"Our rules are drafted according to the knowledge we have gained over the last several months. As a result, our drug testing program is based on best practices and aligns with federal law,'' explained Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.
If a person tests positive, the individual will have the option to be tested a second time. At any time, an individual can avoid termination of benefits by enrolling in an approved and appropriate substance abuse program. Those who fail to disclose they are convicted drug felons will be found in violation of program rules and will face immediate termination of benefits. The State's rule will be published in August and must move through the rule-making process, which includes a public hearing.