State Rep: Pray for Texas if drug testing targets WIC recipients

Yuri Rivera is stocking up on the necessities at a San Benito store where the government helps pay for food.

"I'd like cereal," she said to the cashier at Siempre off Sam Houston Boulevard.

As a mother of 4, who's the sole bread-winner of her family earning less than $13,000 a year, she counts on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant and Children, popularly known as WIC.

"My kids would probably be eating less and wouldn't be as healthy as they are with the WIC program," she explained.

But there are people who abuse the nutrition program, according to law enforcement.

Olga Torres sees it first-hand as a cashier at the store.

"Some customers do come and ask for certain things saying, 'well we're going to need this because we're going to have a party tonight,'" she said.

The Texas Legislature will vote in the upcoming 2013 legislative session on a bill that would target the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program by imposing a drug testing requirement.

Both Olga and Yuri believe drug testing for all welfare recipients would be a step in the right direction towards combating abuse.

"It's not fair for people who really do need the help," Olga said.

"Because I've known people that take advantage of it," Yuri explained. "They don't work; they don't at least try to look for work."

The proposed bill would also tie drug testing to unemployment benefits while banning using public funds for alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets.

State Representative Rene Oliveira, a democrat from District 37, isn't against bills that target adults who abuse the welfare system, but he is against laws ultimately affecting children.

"You don't punish an innocent child for the sins of the parent," he said.

He calls it bad policy and inhumane for Texas to punish children who basically account for at least 70 percent of the welfare system.

Negative action, he says, could impact everyone.

"Is it going to be our churches, is it going to be us as tax-payers and other ways to take care of those who can't take care of themselves?" he asked.

They're questions likely to be addressed, as legislators move to crackdown on welfare fraud.

Click here to join Ryan Wolf TMs Facebook Page Click here to follow Ryan Wolf on Twitter