North Carolina releases results of welfare-applicant drug tests, and barely any came back positive

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Savings or Not, Welfare Drug Testing Laws Are Gaining Steam

In September 2013, despite Governor Pat McCrory's veto, North Carolina enacted a law that required welfare applicants to be screened and tested for illegal drug use. After a huge delay in actually implementing the law, yesterday state officials in North Carolina released results from the first round of tests, the Charlotte Observerreports. Of 7,600 applicants to the state's Work First program — a program that provides families with cash benefits, job training, and support services — 89 (or about 2 percent) were referred for drug testing. Of those, 21 (or less than 0.3 percent of those screened) tested positive — a percentage vastly below both the state and national average rates of self-reported drug use.

The law, which was enacted in August, first requires social workers to screen both new applicants and people who already receive benefits. Social workers must ask them about their habits of drug use in the past year; if there's reason to suspect an applicant has been using illegal drugs, he or she is referred for testing. Anyone convicted of felony drug offenses three years before applying is automatically referred.

Related: A history of welfare programs in the U.S.:

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North Carolina releases results of welfare-applicant drug tests, and barely any came back positive
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 18: Bayard Rustin representing the Negro Labor Council during a welfare workers strike at Murray St. (Photo by Frank Russo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 07: Policeman comes to the aid of an employee being attacked by an angry Welfare Department striker, as she tries to cross the picket line at 260 E. 161st Street, Bronx. (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 19: Helen and Ricardo Guardiola and seven of their eight children ponder their future in a West Side welfare hotel. The city has maintained them in the hotel at a cost of $469 a week. Now, they've found a home in the Bronx for $250 a month, but they need a $500 deposit., (Photo by James Garrett/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
DEC 1 1974, DEC 2 1974; Happiness In A Christmas Doll; Margaret Gallegos, 16 months, seems content with the Raggedy Ann doll she received Sunday at a Christmas Party for underprivileged children at Volunteers of America Senior Center, 1865 Larimer St. About 500 children attended. The Christmas toys were provided by Montgomery Ward & Co. and Super Serve Drug Stores. The VOA is a United Way Agency which provides a variety of social welfare services. Santa was also present at party.; (Photo By Jodi Cobb/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, UNITED STATES: US President Bill Clinton speaks to the annual convention of the California Democratic Party 08 April in Sacramento. President Clinton said 08 April that Republican welfare reform plans neglect children's real needs and don't put poor people to work. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read JOHN G. MABANGLO/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 29: Valerie Smith, who used to be on welfare, now works as Food Service Manager at NYU - 556 LaGuardia Place. (Photo by Susan Watts/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 15: WELFARE FEATURE--Kevin D. Brydie of Gulf Computers in Baltimore works on data entry. He recived his job through the Welfare to Work program. (Photo by Douglas Graham/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 24: WELFARE TO WORK:Garry Stanley and Deborah Washington learn how to work on air condition and heating units at the Center for Employment Training in Alexandria Virginia. (Photo by Douglas Graham/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 09: OREGON WELFARE--Dave Van Wormer, of the North Salem Branch of the Oregon Department of Human Resources, Adult and Family Services, talks to members of a Fast Forward class on its first day. The class is designed to raise the self-esteem of long-time welfare recipients and give them practical knowledge on how to get and keep a job. Van Wormer often alternates between humor and a boisterous manner to emphasize his meaning. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 16: WELFARE-TO-WORK--Transitional Work Corporation facilitator Renaya Furtick-Wheelan talks to TWC paricipants (seated, left to right) Sakiya Fooks (blue sweater), Kimberly Reed and Fatima Sutton about time cards on their last day of a two-week orientation during which they developed personal skills and reviewed employer expectations, professional responsibility, job interviewing, and were matched to 'transitional' jobs. Next comes up to six months of work experience and training. TWC is in downtown Philadelphia, Pa. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 16: WELFARE-TO-WORK--Richard Greenwald, president and CEO of the Transitional Work Corporation in the lobby of TWC in downtown Philadelphia, Pa. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush delivers remarks on welfare reform to a crowd inside the Stephen's Community Center 10 May, 2002 in Columbus, OH. The President later attended a fundraising luncheon raising over 2 million USD for Ohio Governor Bob Taft's re-election campaign and the Republican party 10 May, 2002 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Columbus. AFP PHOTO Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 08: Members of the Community for Creative Non Violence, located in DC, attend a rally on the West Front to supoort legislation designed to end homelessness through a dramatic expansion of affordable housing and social services to help nearly 3.5 million homeless Americans. Tripp and Lopez, a veteran, were both homeless at a point in their lives. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)
A man listens during a rally in Upper Senate Park on Capitol Hill February 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. The group including Democratic members of Congress and labor leaders rallied to support Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other social welfare programs. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Leonard Edwards speaks to reporters during an inverview at Bread for the City, a private non-profit social services organization, on November 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. Edwards is a client receiving assistance from the group, but also offers his time as a volunteer to the organization. The United States celebrates its 'land of plenty' Thanksgiving Day this week, but for the poor and most vulnerable, there is less food on the table after Congress cut aid. As Americans stocked up on turkeys for The NOvember 28, 2013 traditional Thanksgiving dinner, food pantries and charities braced for higher demand after lawmakers slashed $5 billion from the nation's largest hunger safety net. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Bread for the City Chief Executive Officer George Jones, speaks during an interview at Bread for the City, a private non-profit social services organization, on November 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. The United States celebrates its 'land of plenty' Thanksgiving Day this week, but for the poor and most vulnerable, there is less food on the table after Congress cut aid. As Americans stocked up on turkeys for The NOvember 28, 2013 traditional Thanksgiving dinner, food pantries and charities braced for higher demand after lawmakers slashed $5 billion from the nation's largest hunger safety net. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this April 16, 2015, file photograph, Gov. Sam Brownback, left, shakes hands with Department for Children and Families secretary Phyllis Gilmore, right, after signing a welfare reform bill into law in Topeka, Kan. Gay rights, including marriage and DCF drama, was voted a top story in Kansas in 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)
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If an applicant tests positive, their benefits are cut off; of the 21 positive cases from this round of testing, 12 were reportedly approved for reduced payment "because children were involved." Benefits are also cut off if an applicant misses a test appointment, which was the case for 70 people in the last five months of 2015. In keeping with the vaguely humiliating nature of the law — which is, let's face it, less about limiting drug use than it is about reminding poor people who's boss — the state requires each welfare applicant to pay for the drug test and for any subsequent treatment received. North Carolina is one of 13 states with such legislation in place.

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