As of Friday, March 23, 2012
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Gwinnett Daily Post
ATLANTA (AP) — Women in domestic violence shelters would be exempt from taking drug tests before getting welfare payments under a change made by a House committee to one of two similar proposals.
The House and Senate have approved similar legislation requiring that people applying for welfare payments take a drug test before getting cash assistance. The bills from Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, and Rep. Michael Harden, R-Toccoa, differ slightly and may ultimately be reconciled during negotiations in a conference committee.
On Wednesday, members of the House Judiciary Civil committee voted to exempt women in domestic violence shelters from having to take drug tests to get welfare payments. Critics of the testing plan had argued that abused women sometimes cope by abusing drugs and may be hesitant to leave a violent partner if they do not have financial support.
In some cases, abused woman individually qualify for welfare and receive the cash directly. Others get indirect support because they live in shelters funded by the welfare program.
It remains unclear exactly how much money a testing program would cost. Budget officials estimated in late February that the original proposal from Albers would result anywhere from a state financial loss of $84,500 to a savings of $103,000. Harden did not request a financial analysis of his proposal because he said it would not cost the state money.
State officials estimate they would need to spend $200,000 on a computer system so they could deduct the cost of the testing from the money given to welfare recipients, said Cliff O'Connor, the fiscal officer for the Division of Family and Children Services. Those deductions are included under Harden's original proposal.