ELIZABETHTOWN — The Work First program is undergoing changes thanks to a new state law. Lisa Nance, Work First supervisor, said drug testing for the program began on Aug. 1.
She added that Work First is the name for the program that took the place of the former Aid For Dependent Children program.
“The primary goal (of Work First) is to try and help folks become employed,” said Nance.
She added the program is a cash assistance program and that, while physical and mental health problems can potentially become possible barriers to employment, substance abuse can also become a barrier to someone becoming employed.
“We do what is referred to as an audit,” said Nance.
She said the audit is a screening tool and is done at the time the person submits an application.
Vickie Smith, director of the Bladen County Department of Social Services, said the audit process is nothing new to the Work First program.
Nance said the audit and screening process can help in determining if further testing is necessary. According to the N.C. General Statutes, if there is reasonable suspicion of substance abuse, the applicant or recipient may be referred for testing. Nance also added that the required background checks can also provide insight as to whether or not further testing may be needed. Nance said if an applicant has had a drug-related conviction in the past three years, that individual is now required to be drug tested.
“We will also be doing this for recertifications as well,” said Nance.
She said that if an applicant does test positive for controlled substances, they become ineligible to receive Work First assistance for a period of one year.
Smith said the screening and audit process is more of a conversation that takes place between the case worker and applicant. Nance added the process is for both new applicants as well as those that are renewing their application.
Smith added that when an individual applies to receive Work First assistance, things that are considered when determining eligibility include their income, the household size, their resources which means any money that is coming into the home.
Nance said while an applicant is receiving assistance there are requirements that must be met. Those include obtaining work experience and perform an active job search through the employment security commission to name a few things. Nance said there so many hours that are required to be completed by the applicant for each task.
“The goal is for them to become self-sufficient,” said Nance.
Anyone who wants to apply for Work First will need to bring a copy of their birth certificate, social security card, documentation of income, and/or copies of their bank statements.
—Erin Smith can be reached at 910-862-4163.
Folks receiving Work First benefits as well as those recertifying will now undergo a more rigorous screening process thanks to changes in the law that took effect on Aug. 1. Members of the Work First unit are ready to assist their clients in navigating the process. They are front row Sharon McGavock and Charmona Buie-Mitchell; middle row, Sherry Tatum, Danette Sessoms, Jacquelyn Hilburn, and Lisa Nance and back row, Chad Simpson and Tamra Kemp.