DURANT, OK -- Welfare recipients in Oklahoma have a new set of guidelines. Under a new law that takes effect today, anyone caught using drugs will be kicked out of the program.
The original bill was passed by lawmakers and signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin back in May, and the Department of Human Services is working to implement it.
Many people we talked to in Bryan County say the law is a good idea. Durant resident Sabrina Hudson says she works as a maid, but raising a baby daughter by herself, she still finds it hard to make ends meet.
"I only make $500 a month so that's why I'm getting Food Stamps, because I don't have money to pay my rent and get food," Hudson says.
On Thursday, Hudson went to apply for welfare benefits, called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families to help her get by. The new law would drop anyone on that program who is found to be using drugs.
"The difference now is that if an adult is screened to be positive for illegal drug use and substance abuse, then that adult would not be eligible for TANF benefits for six months," says Department of Human Services Bryan County interim director Lori Gray.
According to DHS, applicants for TANF benefits have already been taking drug tests, but up until now, they have not been able to deny benefits solely based on one positive drug test, instead referring people for counseling first.
"I know that when I applied in Pontotoc County, I had to take a written drug assessment," says Bokchito resident Mary Peterson.
Anyone found to be on drugs will still be referred for drug counseling with the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse and can reapply after six months.
"We want to help them to overcome those issues so they can lead more independent and productive lives without us," says Gray.
Many recipients say they support the change, because they believe that some people just do not deserve the help. "They abuse the privilege, not for the kids but for whatever they want, so I think it's a good idea," says Achille resident Stephanie Denzer.
"Instead of trying to do something for themselves, they just want help through the government without trying," says Colbert resident Corey White.
Hudson says she is lucky to have her mother helping take care of her baby. As for the law, she supports the idea that those on drugs will not get benefits. "That way, they can't spend the money on drugs," Hudson says.
In Bryan County, there are a couple hundred households on this program and about 20,000 statewide, according to DHS.
I expect California to start an outreach program to get these people to migrate to compensate for the working people who are leaving the state.