North Carolina Senate Republicans are pushing a new bill requiring drug screening for welfare applicants and current recipients who reapply for assistance.
The NC Senate Judiciary Committee approved the proposal Tuesday that would require applicants to undergo drug screening at their own cost. They would be paid back if they tested negative for controlled substances.
Current law requires welfare recipients with diagnosed substance abuse problems to participate in a treatment program and submit to drug testing to continue qualifying for benefits.
Democrats and advocacy groups oppose the changes, arguing they unfairly target poor people when they need help the most. They say similar policies in other states haven't worked.
Another Republican-sponsored bill requiring criminal background checks for welfare recipients and applicants is scheduled for a full house vote next Tuesday.
North Carolina Senator Brent Jackson said he supports the bill.
"It makes valid sense to me as a taxpayer that we do not want to be funding folks for their habits," said Jackson.
North Carolina Representative Jean Butterfield said she is concerned it could cause more crime.
"Will that mean people will go out and commit more crimes so they can have food and shelter if they are drug tested and can't qualify for benefits," said Butterfield.
According to officials at the Department of Social Services, more than 7,500 people are on welfare in Craven County.