Drug Felony Ban

Section 115 of the 1996 federal welfare legislation placed a lifetime ban on TANF, Medicaid, and Food Stamp benefits for convicted drug felons. The lifetime ban denies mothers in treatment and recovery, many of whom were incarcerated as a result of their addiction, the support networks to achieve self-sufficiency and stabilize their families.

The transitional supports provided by TANF, Medicaid and food stamps is needed by mothers in treatment and recovery to find employment, reunify with the children, and provide a stable, sober, and safe home.

RPHR proposes the adoption of either a broadly tailored lift of the TANF drug felony ban or a narrowly tailored lift directed toward mothers, or the primary custodial parent, in substance abuse treatment.

Indeed, a narrowly tailored ban at establishes parity with the existing language of Higher Education Act’s (HEA) drug provision. The HEA’s drug provision renders students with drug felony convictions eligible for financial aid if they successfully complete a drug treatment program. Allowing treatment to lift the TANF drug felony ban creates parity with the Higher Education Act, hence providing low-income mothers the same second chance accorded to college students.