Drug Testing and Crime-Related Restrictions in TANF, SNAP, and Housing Assistance [May 13, 2013] [open pdf - 432KB]
"This report describes and compares the drug- and crime-related policy restrictions contained in selected federal programs that provide assistance to low-income individuals and families: the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), and the three primary federal housing assistance programs (the public housing program, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, and the project-based Section 8 rental assistance program). These programs were chosen because they serve many of the same families. However, the programs also differ. They have different drug- and other crime-related restrictions, with varying levels of federal administration and discretion for state or local administrators. The drug- and crime-related restrictions in TANF, SNAP, and the housing assistance programs were developed at different times in different laws, but it appears they are intended to serve similar purposes. To some extent, they are intended to deter people from engaging in drug-related and other criminal activity. They may also be intended to punish individuals for engaging in undesirable behavior. Further, when resources are limited, these policies may be intended to direct assistance to other households who are deemed more worthy of assistance. Additionally, particularly for housing assistance programs, drug- and crime-related restrictions may be intended to protect vulnerable communities from the consequences of drug-related and other criminal activity. The report begins by providing a brief overview of the history and evolution of policies establishing drug- and crime-related restrictions in federal assistance programs. It then briefly describes TANF, SNAP, and the three housing programs, and then discusses the specific policies in those programs related to drug testing and drug-related and other criminal activity. It concludes by comparing and contrasting those policies and highlighting considerations for policymakers."
CRS Report for Congress, R42394