Drug Testing Welfare Recipients to Prevent Abuse


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

I have seen the suggestion before that Welfare recipients need to be drug tested to make sure that taxpayers are not paying for the drug habits of those evil poor people.  I have even seen relatives allude to it in messages on social media sites and I have witnessed friends championing the idea in personal emails.  I always wondered why some people think that the poor must be abusing the state and federal aid programs and therefore must have drug tests to insure that the taxpayers money is not being wasted.  While I agree that taxpayers money should not be wasted, I have not seen any benefit from forcing people to be drug tested before they receive their aid payments.

The State of Florida tried this from 1999 to 2001 and reintroduced it in 2011.  The Florida plan was subsequently struck down by the courts because there was no evidence that poor people abused drugs more often than their wealthier counterparts.  “The state of Florida passed an almost identical testing procedure that ran from 1999 to 2001 and was reintroduced in July of 2011 that was struck down by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta the following month, citing the fact:  ‘ “there is nothing inherent to the condition of being impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a `concrete danger’ that impoverished individuals are prone to drug use.” ‘  Crooks and Liars   Does it surprise you that it took the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals before this expensive and intrusive process was ended in Florida? 

The Florida experience proved to be a costly waste of taxpayers money according to the Tampa Tribune.  “The Tampa Tribune investigated the results of those July 2011 drug tests and found that “96 percent proved to be drug free”, another 2 percent never bothering to complete the lengthy application process, and 2 percent actually failing drug testing. At an average cost of $30 per test, the state was hemorrhaging tax dollars at a rate of “$28,800-$43,200 monthly”… FAR out pacing the supposed “savings” from preventing drug-abusers from gaming the system to buy drugs.” Crooks and Liars  The failure of this idea in Florida did not prevent or dissuade the Texas State Senate from unanimously passing an even more draconian plan to screen and drug test welfare recipients.

“On Wednesday, the Texas State legislature, currently composed of 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats, unanimously passed Senate Bill 11, which mandates that every Texan applying for food assistance through the TANF (Texas Assistance for Needy Families) program, submit to an undefined “screening process” and possible drug test before receiving benefits if the screener finds “good cause” to even suspect that person is… or is likely to… abuse any “controlled substance” — despite the fact that there is no evidence at all that people seeking assistance are more likely to do drugs.

According to the bill’s author, Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), the purpose of the bill:  ‘ “It ensures that TANF, formerly known as welfare, supports its core purpose of helping families to achieve self-sufficiency,” said Nelson, as she introduced the bill. “We found common ground to support a plan that makes sure state resources aren’t used to support a drug habit while at the same time making sure children receiving benefit in a productive environment.” ‘ Crooks and Liars

I can only assume that the venerable Texas State Senators failed to read about the experience this type of plan had in Florida or merely discounted the facts available to them.  Is there a reason why politicians of all stripes jump on the bandwagon that claims the poor and needy are just lazy and may even be on illegal drugs and therefore do not deserve the help of their fellow citizens?  These same Texas Senators ignored the Houston Chronicle which published an article critical of SB11 and other proposed bills designed to root out those drug abusing poor people out of their assistance programs.

“Four times during last week’s House Human Services Committee meeting, Rep. Scott Turner asked whether Texas has a problem with parents diverting assistance dollars for food and children to buy drugs.  Agency officials could tell the Frisco Republican only that they do not test recipients, and few people lose their benefits because of drug convictions or tips that can be corroborated. ” Houston Chronicle  

The Chronicle discussed a similar plan in Michigan that was struck down by a State court for being unconstitutional and the plan in Florida discussed above.  According to the Chronicle there are seven other states with similar drug testing of welfare recipients programs.  ” Seven states have enacted similar measures – all but two require risk screening before drug testing – and another 29 states are considering legislation this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Three Texas bills propose testing some applicants for state unemployment benefits rather than TANF applicants.” Houston Chronicle

Just where does this pervasive fear that the unemployed or impoverished are stealing from the public in order to support their drug habits?  Does this relate to the old “welfare queen” meme?  Is it related to the attempt by some state legislatures to pass voter ID laws to prevent non-existent voter fraud?

As usual, it seems that the politicians are unfazed by the fact that the poor do not use drugs any more than the middle class or the wealthy.  Growing up my family received Veterans benefits and Social Security benefits that kept us from ending up on the street.  Today, these onerous screening and drug testing programs would have forced my Mother to be tested before she could receive her check which paid for the housing and food for herself and her 5 young children.   Remind me again, why is this a good idea?

Additional References:  ACLU;

120 thoughts on “Drug Testing Welfare Recipients to Prevent Abuse

  1. I would like to see weekly mandatory drug and alcohol testing for all elected officials, especially at the state and federal level. These individuals are making life and death decisions for citizens and we, the electorate, should have the assurance that their deliberations are done with the utmost sobriety.

  2. You can be sure that the reason given for passing this law in florida was a ruse to obfuscate the legislators’ cronies’ drug testing businesses that would be benefitting the lot. The republican party has had a death grip on this state for 20+ years. Expect to see more JEBby promotion of charter schools, while disemboweling the public ones, a la drug-testing debacle. The usual bushfamily influence peddling for their personal pocket lining. Scum of the earth run this state.

  3. The reason people think there is a lot of abuse is that they see it in real life. If you live in a rarefied realm where there is no one using means tested benefits, you tend to think its all on the up and up, I guess.

  4. Florida didn’t save money by drug testing welfare recipients, data shows
    By Brittany Alana Davis

    TALLAHASSEE — Required drug tests for people seeking welfare benefits ended up costing taxpayers more than it saved and failed to curb the number of prospective applicants, data used against the state in an ongoing legal battle shows.

    The findings — that only 108 of the 4,086 people who took a drug test failed — are additional ammunition for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which sued the state and won a temporary ban on the drug-testing program in October, said ACLU spokesman Derek Newton.

    Attorneys for the state immediately appealed the ban, and will face off against the ACLU again at the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta and the U.S. District Court in Orlando in coming months.

    The costs and benefits of the law — and the outcome of the court case — could reverberate nationwide. This week, Georgia passed its own drug welfare law.

    Since Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law last year, 25 states have considered similar legislation, Newton said.

    Data about the law’s cost may impact the court of public opinion, but Jenn Meale, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said it won’t play a role in the legal proceedings.

    That’s because ACLU’s case rests on whether the law violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against “unreasonable searches” by the government.

    “Any costs associated with the program are irrelevant to the analysis of whether the statute is constitutional,” Meale said.

    Of the 4,086 applicants who scheduled drug tests while the law was enforced, 108 people, or 2.6 percent, failed, most often testing positive for marijuana. About 40 people scheduled tests but canceled them, according to the Department of Children and Families, which oversees Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, known as the TANF program.

    The numbers, confirming previous estimates, show that taxpayers spent $118,140 to reimburse people for drug test costs, at an average of $35 per screening.

    The state’s net loss? $45,780.

  5. Raft,

    You left Michigan out of the equation…. They did it first under John Engler…. It was not upheld….. The twist an alternative payee…. If they test positive….. Which is BS…. But Texas is the 5th Circuit so it might have a chance in being upheld….

    KathyP I have thought that….the elected officials…..should be able o do what the expect others too….

  6. AY,
    The Houston Chronicle article quoted and linked to above discussed the Michigan experience and I noted it briefly as well.

  7. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but there is a lot of support for welfare drug testing among workers for whom drug testing is a condition of employment.

    The courts have ruled that companies can drug test as a condition of employment (whether or not safety is a consideration).

    Not logical and smacks of meanness, but why not apply the same standard to both?

    In fact, arguably, the taxpayer is providing the higher value to society and should be afforded the greater protection from the consequences of taking drugs.

    debate aside, what we are seeing is a growing encroachment on personal liberty under the guise of morality, corporate rights and government power.

  8. Steve,
    I would not have any problem with drug testing welfare recipients if there was any evidence that their population had a higher than normal incidence of drug use. That is not the case.
    No problem! :)

  9. Raff,

    I have a huge problem with the presumption of guilt.
    Why don’t they presume any other sector of society
    is guilty of drug use and abuse, and legislate it.

    Politicians seem to hate the thought that these people
    are taxpayers (like sales tax) as well. They spend
    100% of their income every month, unlike some slimy
    SOB’s that hide their money offshore and produce
    nothing for the country at all…

  10. Drug testing of people on public assistance is both unnecessary and would cost way more than any return on the investment. Many people on SSI are disabled. Disabled people are often on a variety of medications. So, if a chronic pain or cancer patient is on massive doses of narcotics, does that mean benefits are cut? Social Security disability applicants often show up for exams with a plastic Walmart bag bulging with medicine bottles. How is a lab going to sort all that out without getting false positives out the wazoo?

    Perhaps I am becoming more cynical in my old age, but whenever something like this comes along, I suggest following the advice “Deep Throat” allegedly gave Bob Woodward. “Follow the money.”

  11. rafflaw:

    I dont know why we dont just give poor people money and get rid of the whole entitlement program in total. It could just be done by the IRS. Submit a W2 with any amount of income and receive a check every month to bring you above the poverty line. End the payroll for all of those social workers and the expense for the infrastructure and use the savings to help the people in need.

    Lets cut out the middle man and all this admin cost and cut to the meat which is providing assistance.

    I am guessing the cost of administering these programs is almost as much as the money given to the people when all is said and done.

  12. Gov. Rick Scott, Solantic and conflict of interest: What’s the deal?
    Kris Hundley, Times Staff Writer

    If you have a $62 million investment, representing the biggest single chunk of your $218 million in wealth, and you put it in a trust under your wife’s name, does that mean you’re no longer involved in the company?

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott says it does.

    Scott has aggressively pursued policies like testing state workers and welfare recipients for drugs, switching Medicaid patients to private HMOs and shrinking public health clinics. All these changes could benefit that $62 million investment, but Scott sees no legal conflict between his public role and private investments.

    And, experts say, under Florida law he is correct.

    A few days before he took office in January, Scott moved his shares in Solantic Corp., a chain of 32 urgent care centers, to the Frances Annette Scott Revocable Trust. Scott co-founded Solantic in 2001 and was involved in its operation until last year. His wife’s trust now holds enough stock in the private company to control it.

    Solantic’s walk-in clinics, clustered in mid-Florida and along the east coast, handle everything from stitches and sprains to school physicals and immunizations. Charges are posted like fast-food prices and there’s a three-day feel-better guarantee — if you’re not feeling better after three days, your follow-up visit is free. The company partners with hospitals in several markets, including Shands HealthCare in Gainesville.

    By transferring the Solantic shares to his wife’s trust, which is represented on the Solantic board by one of his former business associates, Scott maintains he is free from any possible conflicts.

  13. Elaine,
    It would be poetic justice if she hooked up romantically with a good looking foreigner and left the country with all the assets.

  14. JOY got it right. It’s also true that ALL assistance programs are a form of corporate welfare. Ironically, some ot it (e.g.from the corner store’s sales) is transferred back to China, Phillipines, Pockystan etc.

  15. OS, LOL, I wouldn’t eat or drink anything she prepared for me either.

    There’s a lot of mean-spiritedness in legislation like this as well as a profit motive but I think it’s tied to the ‘blame the victim’ mentality also. Blaming the victim is way to distance yourself from the victim and victimization. No one likes to think they can be attacked or killed for no reason or that most folks are no more than a couple of paycheck’s away from losing their house or being evicted. Obviously, there’s something wrong with poor people in general (but not me) and if we look hard enough we’ll find out what it is. They’ve got to be doing something wrong or they wouldn’t be impoverished and hopeless. There’s a good pinch of religious faith thrown into that attitude too, IMO.

  16. When you get a job you have to be drug tested so why is there such a problem drug testing for public assistance or unemployment benefits. I work in affordable housing and I see a lot of abuse, more than the average person does. We have residents who pay $1.00/month for rent for a 2-bedroom townhouse with all utilities included, this resident is in and out of jail all the time for drugs. I also left out that she receives $450/month in food benefits from the state. I see a problem with this! If I have to be drug tested for the money that I earn than the people who are getting money for free needs to be drug tested also. That is only one example there are so many more. Unemployment is also a problem, someone gets unemployment because they cannot get a job, well did you ever think that it is because they cannot pass a drug test….Not all people who are on public assistants is abusing the system, but there are a lot of people out there that are. Maybe if we clean up the abusers than there will be more money for the ones that really need the help!!

  17. Drug testing for other than safety reasons is an intrusion on the person and should be abolished. On the job performance should be based on, well, job performance. If you can do the job, good. If not, improve or find something else. What one does on one’s own time is no one else’s business. Not being hired b/c you had a poppy seed baggle for breakfast? or smoking a joint last week?

    As to welfare benefits, as you say, poor people applying are no more likely to be illegal drug users than any other group, actually I would expect less likely. Habitual users who belong in a rehab or hospital have trouble focusing enough to get through all the hoops put in their way.

  18. I am not very well informed in this part of the law but:

    How about this for consideration: There are individuals who receive social security disability benefits due to drug and/or alcohol condition. So do we violate the Americans with Disabilities act by denying this disabled person access to government programs and benefits due to his disability?

  19. When we start testing members of congress, who benefit greatly from government benefits and CEOs of big corporations who also benefit greatly from government benefits and banksters for a start, I discuss whether poor people should be drug tested.

  20. In the early 1990’s when family homelessness was a big issue and NYC was unable to cope with it and being dunned by various lawsuits by various advocates I was called to an important meeting. I was the Director of Budget Preparation for the Adult Services Administration Division, which administered all the city Homeless Shelters for both individuals and families. My job was essentially to turn vague budget proposals into tangible programs that were completely developed including staffing and all expenses.

    The meeting was led by a representative from the Mayor’s Office, a heavy hitter, and consisted of various the various Commissioner’s responsible for the Shelter System and me who was to do the tangible work. The Mayor’s representative said that the idea was to have each and every family who came into the Shelter System looking for help tested for Mental Health Issues, Drug Dependency and all children tested for lead poisoning. It was met with general approval by the powers that be being they were political appointees, but I was appalled. I couldn’t fathom the purpose since there was no plan to provide mental health services if the tests disclosed need, the same was true of drug dependency and finally not all children needed to undergo lead poisoning tests. Finally, after all the sycophancy I asked the Mayor’s guy” What is the purpose of these tests?” He smirked as he said that they would be so onerous it would discourage families from applying and thus alleviate the strain on the Family Shelter System that was getting the City battered in court. I held my tongue and went back to do my budget work. Surprisingly for the powers that be when I produced a budget for the program it was far too expensive to implement.

    When I first heard about the Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients proposal I thought back to that meeting.

  21. Of course you do Nick, you’re one of those freedom loving, small government, less regulation Libertarian/Randian Independents.:-)

  22. Mike S: “Surprisingly for the powers that be when I produced a budget for the program it was far too expensive to implement.”

    You ol’ sabat slinger you; did it squeal- the ‘machine’ as it ground to a halt, did it squeal? :-) Well done.

  23. sb? “should be”. Sabots are the wooden shoes that early industrial laborers would wear and throw into the gears of the machines they worked at to stop them. Those early laborites were some serious cats. It is the root of “sabotage”. You knew that I’m betting, it was the “sb” that threw you. I have seen that in the corrections thread but context, and the proper use of quotation marks, is everything.:-) Sorry.

  24. Shannon
    1, April 14, 2013 at 5:57 pm
    When you get a job you have to be drug tested so why is there such a problem drug testing for public assistance or unemployment benefits.


    Not all employers require prospective employees to be drug tested. My husband never required his employees to be drug tested.

  25. LK,

    The beauty of it was the Deputy Commissioner had to sell the idea to the City Office of Management and Budget. All I had to do at that meeting was to attest to the factual basis of my numbers. Since it was known that I was a psychotherapist with a private practice there was no one there who could dispute my mental health costs. Drug testing was very expensive back then and I got the lead poisoning costs from a friend in the City Department of Health. The thing that I loved about Civil Service was that you could follow your comscience. My problem was I didn’t kiss ass or pullpunches, so I had to work hard and be good to succeed. In my way I did and I’m proud of it.

  26. Mike S.,

    One thing politicians–both Democrats and Republicans–and members of the MSM don’t want to address is the issue of poverty in this country.

  27. If the govt did away with govt welfare tomorrow Walmart, Monsanto, JP Morgan, farmers/ranchers,etc., would all go broke the next day.

    If the govt illegally starts drug testing of people applying for welfare the govt will need to drug test everyone/politicians/generals/police/firemen/teachers,corporate shareholders,nation states & their entire population wishing US aid, etc.

  28. So the person receiving assistance fails the drug test. What happens?
    If there are children involved will they no longer have food or clothing?
    Does the state put the children in foster care? Will the user be jailed or turned out on the street. What programs will be available for the complications that arise from failed tests.
    PS. what are the stated penalties for a failed test?

  29. ‘Missing In Action’: Congress Ignores America’s Poverty Crisis
    By Jennifer bendery
    Posted: 04/08/2013

    WASHINGTON — At a time when Republicans on Capitol Hill are expressing outrage over canceled White House tours, something more deserving of outrage is taking place: tens of millions of the nation’s most vulnerable are taking hits on all sides. The nation’s poverty rate is frozen at a high of 15 percent. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, for the most part, aren’t even talking about it.

    “Missing in action,” Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said of Congress’ record on poverty.

    It has been a topic of discussion among Washington lawmakers in fleeting moments. Language about making poverty a national priority found its way into the Democratic Party platform last year and into President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in February. Democrats tucked a line into their budget proposals this year calling for a strategy to cut poverty in half in 10 years.

    Yet the issue has all but disappeared from the legislative agenda in Congress as lawmakers focus squarely on deficit reduction. Obama, too, has been largely silent on the issue, and has even proposed cutting Social Security — a key tool for combating poverty. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a leading voice for the poor in the Senate, has fumed that Obama is caving to Republicans on the issue at the expense of “millions of working people, seniors, disabled veterans, those who have lost a loved one in combat, and women.”

    The statistics are staggering. According to the Census Bureau, the nation’s poverty rate is at its highest level in decades. More than 46 million people — one in seven Americans — are living below the poverty line, 16.4 million of them children. Another 30 million Americans are just a lost job or serious illness away from joining them. And in the last six years alone, more than 20 million people have joined the ranks of those relying on food stamps to get by.

  30. **Elaine M. 1, April 14, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    1, April 14, 2013 at 5:57 pm
    When you get a job you have to be drug tested so why is there such a problem drug testing for public assistance or unemployment benefits.


    Not all employers require prospective employees to be drug tested. My husband never required his employees to be drug tested.

    Most drug test at large are violations of peoples constitutional rights.

    “We The People” are not Slaves, we’re the Phk’n Owners, but very few even respect their position as such & behave as slaves to the authoritarian Fascist now running things.

    Drug testing of Judges, Polecats, Police, Airline pilots, etc. thats a different issue.

    And notice the effects of “Brainwashing” “We the People” into believe we must expose our junk to the “”Govt Authority”” for their inspection. (Thanks Ronnie Raygun)

    Ya Right sure! Screw them, let them bow and kiss the Queens balls!

  31. Skeletor:

    Might it be just a little less of a headache to instead chill out on a beach on a remote island in the tropics? I get the power bit–master of the universe thing and all, but think of all the responsibility and that cell phone ringing off the hook. And that face mask must get a little tiring to wear, especially when having to always entertain guests (suck ups) and their children always pointing fingers. Why go through all that, just for some fancy title to put on your resume?

    Just chill man, eternal life is just too short.

  32. There is considerable resentment that Aid to Dependent Children does not filter down to the children. Why did the woman get knocked up? Why did the father not step forward and live with mom and child? Does the program promote single parentage? Why cant moms work and have kids. Perhaps the program should be day care for kiddo and jobs mandatory for mom and dad. If mom wont rat out dad for being dad then mom should work longer hours. Drug addicts should not raise kids, should not be subsidized by Aid For Dependent Children and perhaps they need radical treatment. Perhaps lobotomies for meth heads. Shock treatment for potheads. Export to the desert for heroin and crack heads.
    If you test welfare recipients for drugs then test them for job skills while you are at it. Almost anyone can do road work or pick up litter. Florida is a RepubliCon warped state with a shaved head governor and a Senator who thinks that Castro took over Cuba in 1956 when his parents “fled. Liar, liar, pants on fire Rubio. But I diverge. Test him while you are at it Florida. He talks funny.

  33. “The Florida plan was subsequently struck down by the courts because there was no evidence that poor people abused drugs more often than their wealthier counterparts.”

    Was the struck-down law changed substantially in the 2011 version to address those concerns? My understanding is the 2011 version hasnt been struck down but is currently halted while it winds it’s way through the courts.

    To me, the point about poor people’s drug rates would be relevant if catching drug users was the goal, but it doesnt seem to be the right basis here. It’s not that they use drugs at a higher rate ( I dont believe they do)… it’s that they use drugs while asking the state to directly support them. The goal seems to be to prevent taxpayer money (in the form of cash benefits) from going towards furthering someone’s drug habit, when it should be used to help people get back on their feet. Drug usage can be a strong contributing factor (if not a primary reason) towards the need for cash benefits in the first place, so “not being a drug user” seems like a reasonable-to-me request to someone receiving taxpayer cash.

    I’m generally pro-legalization when it comes to drugs, as what you put into your body is your own business. If you use drugs and can support yourself, I pretty much dont care. However, continuing to use drugs but being unable to support yourself or your family to the extent that you ask the taxpayer for money… that’s a bit different.

    I’ve also seen those same numbers from that Tampa Tribune investigation in other articles. But, I’ve also seen another group that took a look at the Florida law after the Tribune story and their conclusions are pretty different. As a disclaimer, I’m wary of even marginally unbiased “studies” (of course, one could argue the Tribune isnt fully objective either), but I couldnt really find much fault with this one. They seemed to me pretty transparent about their numbers and methods, so take it with a grain of salt.:) I’d be interested in seeing other’s opinions on it:

    Basically, they argue the standard “2%” number is misleading, and that Florida could potentially save a decent chunk of money, possibly several million. The 2% number was taken only after the 1st month of the law being in effect, and so it only counts people who went to the state, filled out all the paperwork, got approved for benefits, and then paid 30 bucks to take a drug test…. all while knowing they’ve used drugs and will ultimately fail… then they (surprise) fail the test. If you also count all the people who go through the entire process, get approved, but then never actually go show up and take the test (which requires looking at multiple months b/c of how applications are closed)… the number ends up significantly higher than 2%. If you also look at year-over-year applications, it does suggest the possibility of an additional deterrent effect, which could add to the number. The savings of preventing a drug abuser cash benefits for the average (at the time) 4 months someone is typically on assistance covers the cost of quite a few people who otherwise get reimbursed for passing their drug test. According to their figures, you apparently dont need that much of a percentage to end up saving money.

  34. Elaine M. beat me to the punch about Scott and Solantic. I have no doubt that if a thorough investigation is done, all the companies that will do the drug testing have connections to politicians making this a law.

    This isn’t about stopping drug users from living off taxpayers, this is corporations living off taxpayers. The only welfare fraud happening is corporate welfare.

  35. P Smith,
    I think you and Elaine hit upon the real reason for this drug testing nonsense. Money for the corporations that do the testing.

  36. Fair enough…. a closer look at the numbers like in that link (re: Florida)…indicate to me that a good case could be made that those numbers are kinda cherry-picking a bit and lead to some incomplete conclusions.

    I’m not surprised that people using drugs wont, in huge numbers, go voluntarily pay 30 bucks to be denied cash benefits – let alone they show up and apply at all. Now that I think on it a bit… I’m actually surprised they got to as high as 2%:)

    I dont like the Michigan law b/c it gives weird discretion to govt officials on who has to take a test and who doesnt, and the 1999 law that was struck down was “random” drug testing on only certain people I think, which I also disagree with. Both are way too arbitrary to me.

  37. rafflaw,

    I wondered if ALEC might have a hand in these mandated drug-testing laws that were popping up in many states. Look what I found:

    Proposals to drug-test the unemployed gain momentum
    ALEC-developed model legislation would see only the poor and desperate scrutinized for receiving government aid
    By Natasha Lennard
    Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013

    GOP lawmakers in statehouses around the country are pushing legislation that would force the unemployed to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits. In February 2012 Congress gave states the go-ahead to introduce such legislation, despite criticism from worker advocacy groups and civil libertarians.

    When the federal law was passed, House Republicans initially wanted to let states have all 7.5 million people collecting unemployment compensation pee in a cup. A compromise was reached, which authorizes states to test applicants for benefits in two circumstances: if they were fired for using drugs, or if the only occupation they’re suited for is one the Department of Labor lists as commonly requiring drug testing. Which jobs the department might include in the provision is not yet determined (Democrats say a small number of professions, Republicans say most), but in the meantime GOP state legislators are pushing forward with drug-testing proposals.

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry has asked lawmakers to push through legislation requiring not only unemployment beneficiaries to be drug tested, but also individuals applying for food stamps — a particularly draconian move on the governor’s part, especially since in the few states where where drug testing of welfare beneficiaries has been attempted, like Florida, there has been no evidence of reduced drug use.

    A state GOP senator in Arkansas filed legislation Tuesday that would require applicants for unemployment benefits to undergo a drug test, while the Wyoming statehouse is currently considering a similar bill.

    “Legislators in Wyoming would better serve their constituents by trying to pass bills that solve problems that actually exist,” Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project, told HuffPo, adding that Wyoming already has has the fifth lowest unemployment rate of all the states and a healthy unemployment trust fund.

    As Corolines commented last year, “Like many conservative legislative movements, drug testing poor people isn’t an idea that’s spreading through happenstance.” The proliferation of similar legislation proposals across multiple states is facilitated by the use of model legislation written by policymakers working with think tanks including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

  38. You May Have to Pass a Drug Test to Get Unemployment
    Posted April 12, 2013 in Government Your Personal Rights
    by Aaron Kase

    Some 85,000 people in Arkansas who collect unemployment might soon have to pee in a cup. A bill that would require recipients of unemployment benefits to sign up for random drug testing has passed the state Senate, just one out of a number of similar measures being considered by states nationwide.

    At least seven states have passed laws on drug testing for people who receive public assistance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and another 29 have proposed similar bills this year alone. Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah all passed laws since 2011 that demand testing for people who apply for welfare benefits, food stamps or both.

    Last year the U.S. Congress joined the pro-testing club, passing a law allowing states to test unemployment beneficiaries if they lost their jobs because of drug use, or if their profession is one that routinely requires drug testing.

    Arkansas’s bill goes further, requiring all beneficiaries to subject themselves to random testing, and Texas is also currently considering a bill that would specifically target people on unemployment for testing. The proposals stem from model legislation drawn up by the American Legislative Exchange Council and other conservative groups that push to have anti-consumer laws enacted in states around the country.

  39. Thanks Elaine. This drug test the poor and unemployed is the latest attempt to continue the Reagan era welfare queen myth that as a group, the unemployed and poor are just lazy and do not want to work.

  40. The unemployed are a far different kettle of fish than the dads of welfare kids. By definition, the unemployed were working and got laid off and are drawing benefits paid for the worker when he/she was working. Deadbeat dad who doesnt work but sires kids is a bad apple that serves as a bad role model for the offspring and is a drain on society. Mom ought to buy her own rubbers and not rely on wikileaks.

  41. Unemployment benefits are an insurance program, not welfare at all. What other insurance programs, public or private require drug tests? People on unemployment benefits should be treated like SSI recipients. The government is I believe overreaching with the drug testing for Unemployment benefits recipients. I would like to see that law challenged legally.

  42. Well. I’m no more likely to be on drugs that anybody else that HAS a job. But most employers drug test you these days. I know every one I’ve worked for has. So why SHOULDN’T they be tested?

  43. I posted a blog on this topic when the law was first introduced. It is of course blatantly unconstitutional. But I believe we make a mistake if we think that lawmakers are concerned about the misspending of taxpayer money. My view is that the real intent of this sort of legislation is to shame and humiliate the poor and the unemployed. There is a segment of the population that regards poverty as morally blameworthy. And that includes the folks at ALEC. The economy has been Thatcherized. We are following that up by pronouncing moral judgment on the poor.

  44. Well said Mike A. It is a moral judgment against a status that in most cases is non-intentional and not caused by bad acts by those poor or unemployed people.

  45. Mike,
    How would the wealthy react if they could not place their money into tax free shelters without passing a drug test?

  46. I was drug screening about twice a year while working in the construction industry for a total of 25-30 tests.

  47. This tactic was tried by the carpetbagging unindicted sociopath Rick Scott, the allegedly-elected gov of FL. While the policy ended up costing more to administer than it saved, it may have succeeded in deterring some needy people from applying for the assistance.

    One might reasonably wonder if the real goal is not to save money or influence morals, but rather to deter people from seeking the govt assistance in the first place.

  48. Coming from a poor part of the community I lived in I can tell all of you that the majority of people on welfare are there because they are leeches. Before the “government debit card” was around I remember friends parents going to the gas station and buying 5 cent candy with a food stamp and collecting the change to buy beer and ciggarettes, also trading food stamps for drugs. Now they have a $350 cash option on top of being able to buy “food” or trade for crack. If people want to get free money for being unproductive citizens they should be tested for drug use. I have to be tested to “earn” money for my job why shouldnt they have to be tested for recieving the money “I” pay in my taxes every check. If you think otherwise you must be living in a upper middle class area or upper class…. Get your head out of you arses and wake up and smell the abuse!

  49. Mike….

    There is nothing wrong with feeling ashamed of being on government assistance… It gives you motivation to get off….

  50. Josh,
    please regale us with your evidence of your claim that majority of people on “welfare” are just leeches. I am sure you can come up with some verifiable evidence of that claim??

  51. My evidence is the fact that I experienced it…. If you are on welfare for extended time your not trying to get off.. There are jobs available all over the country…. why don’t you give me evidence they are not… when I was a child we werfe on welfare for less than a year… why you may ask, because it is embarassing and that motivated my,parents to get off I have lived in that life and you are in,denial,if you don’t believe that career welfare recipients are abusing. If they are not leeches than they would get a job like everone else.. I work 60 hours aweek to suport my family how many hours does a 300 lb welfare recipent worfk a week? Funny how so many can,afford to drive nicerf cars than me and talk,on there smartphone while chcking out there potato chips and pop and cookies at walmart… also it is absolutly wrong that you can,use a welfare, card to buy pizza and energy drinks…. let’s hear your evidence they are not leeches…..

  52. You people seem to forget that these people are receiving free money not “sheltering” there own money.. while I don’t agree with that either that is completly irrelevant to this topic of disscussion

  53. REALLY is the state of Florida that stupid to think these people are not doing this? The people I have met in Florida on this program ARE using this to buy drugs. Selling food stamps to get there habit. Do we really want to pay for there crack or other drugs???

  54. Kathy is correct… people like you rawflaw should go to your poor area of your town and open your eyes… look around at the people and tell me why drug dealers and users deserve to get my money

  55. Josh,

    I worked with people on Welfare for 37 years and you don’t know what you are talking about. Anecdotes aren’t evidence and neither is the fact your family hot off welfare. BTW you are certainly an ungrateful person because if there wasn’t welfare when you were a kid, or maybe even you believe this because you parents were commiting welfare fraud themselves.

  56. I’m not ungrateful I’m realistic unlike yourself, you can pretend that everyone on welfare is on it for good reason and accept the lies that drug addicts feed you… we used welfare as a crutch to get on our feet, that is the purpose, not to support a family long term. You know nothing about me and people like you are the reason the system gets abused. The topic is weather or not they should get drug tested not whether or not it should exist… it should exist some people genuinly need the help but those folks are the ones who will pass a drug screening, if you fail one you should not be rewarded with free money… as I said previously we didn’t use welfarefor more than a, year because of my parents getting out and doing work and earning their pay….

  57. Mike,
    People like Josh remind me of Justice Clarence Thomas. He was an affirmative action success story, and had it not been for affirmative action, he would be just another black guy from Georgia trying to find a job. It makes no sense to me that such people try to kick the ladder from under those who might try to follow them up the ladder.

  58. Not sure even you have a clue what your talking about. How do you justify me having to be drug tested to earn money and welfare people not….. keep living your life in a cloud and you won’t see what’s around you….

  59. Josh in Washington:

    The drug testing for welfare issue has already been determined. If you do not understand the rationale, you could begin be reading threads on this site that have dealt with the issue, as well as the applicable case law. If you do all that and still don’t get it, you will have established yourself as a perfect citizen for a police state.

  60. Josh,
    It’s “you’re,” not “your” in that context. Some employers require drug testing as a condition of employment. The reason for that is safety and liability. If an employee has an accident and it turns out they are on something that will impair reaction time or judgment, it can cost big time. If a person is on disability or unemployment insurance, if they apply for a job, they too will have to be tested.

    BTW, do you have any idea how much a full panel blood workup costs? Don’t complain about cost unless you are willing to pay over a hundred dollars per test. Many disabled persons have no transportation, so you will have to pay to get them to and from the doctor’s office, or have a home health nurse come to their residence and take it. That’s not free either. How many people did you say you wanted to test?

  61. Kathy Rhoten DeWitt:

    Of course there are people on welfare who use drugs. There are people who receive social security disability benefits who are perfectly capable of working. There are innocent people in prison and there are criminals walking the streets. There does not exist an institution created by man that is impervious to fraud and abuse. However, we have determined that the protections we have under the Constitution are sufficiently important that we will tolerate a certain amount of abuse rather than curtail our freedoms. That is a fundamental truth which students ought to understand by the time they have graduated from middle school. The fact that these issues continue to be debated is a failure of basic education in civics.

  62. OS,

    I think Josh is a troll for Rick Scott. If he isn’t though he is too obtuse to realize he is damning his own parents for applying for welfare in the first place. Weren’t they “stealing our money”? Were they buying drus so that they couldn’t earn a living?

  63. Mike S.:

    I think the French would be quite annoyed if they discovered anyone trying to sell the Drus.

  64. I’m not sure how I’m damning my parents I can guarantee you that they would both pass a drug test had they been getting one. you fail to understand that I said we did not stay on welfare after we did not need it anymore. you spend way too much time on the internet I am my own person you are obviously not your own person I am proud to say that everything I have I earned I did not accept a handout from anybody I am NOT my parents I would have not done. however they did and it helped us and that’s great

  65. nowhere in our Constitution does it say that we have the right there for that is a privilege much like driving a car you have to follow rules when you drive you should have to follow rules when you receive welfare

  66. Josh in Washington:

    Like I said, do some reading. No one says there is a “right” to welfare under the Constitution. With all due respect, you really have no idea what you’re talking about.

  67. Josh,
    That was complete and total gibberish, but it’s OK. No one will tell your English teacher. :mrgreen:

  68. RE: comment about Jeb Bush ‘giving to charter schools, while letting the public ones fail’ my words, since it was like 200 comments ago. ….NOT SO….public schools have been failing and dumbing down requirements for decades, thus the NEED for Charter and taxpaying/school taxes/home schoolers and/or private schooling. Don’t reverse the order of history, please.

  69. kate,
    I don’t know which comment you are referring to, but I could not find the one that you are responding to. I do think you may want to review history and you will see that once the schools were required to teach to the test, as detailed in No Child Left Behind, the dumbing down has increased. Private schools and even Charter schools have their place, but they should not be receiving public money.

  70. Joy,
    You need to move to MA, where we are run by chronic liber Democrats, who pour out monies to anyone, except for hard working people. We literally are a sanctuary State, with lots of officially deemed Sanctuary Cities (Cambridge being the latest example in the news, but even they found that their self-described SC status didn’t make sense, when no one wanted the body of Terrorist Bomber #1, not even them, and he was a resident of said city. BE prepared to come with TONS of money, though, because the cost of living is sky high, compared to FL, and a lot of that cost is for hand-out programs (I am NOT against a truly needy person getting temp. assistance, to make sure they are not losing a home, or starving, etc., given BO’s miserable amount of time “creating jobs” – yeah, remember that promise? Now, he’s spent most of his second term campaigning for the gun laws, when we have laws on the books that are not enforced. He’s also busy with this amnesty nonsense……….so not only is he not concentrating on ‘creating jobs’, but he’s wanting to allow tons more people in the Country (yes, it’s not just the ones already here who have broken law #1, and are soon to be rewarded for that) per year, so I’m not sure what jobs they will get………..I could go on and on, but I won’t.

  71. It may be a far sighted step to check welfare recipients but you also don’t do much investigation on how many food stamp receipients sell their food stamps to go out and gamble, buy cigarettes and drugs. And some have 2 or 3 other people in the house living with them who are working and split the rent into nothing. THIS ISN’T THE WAY OF THE MAJORITY BUT THE AMOUNT OF ABUSE NEEDS TO BE REMOVED SO THE TRUE NEEDY PEOPLE CAN LIVE !!!

  72. Gary-Mr Infinity,
    as I asked above, where is your evidence of your claims? Are some people abusing food stamps and welfare. Sure, but the numbers are small. The drug testing scam is just a ruse to rile up the masses. Where is your passion concerning the Trillions used to bail out the banks?

  73. […] “The Florida experience proved to be a costly waste of taxpayers money according to the Tampa Tribune. “The Tampa Tribune investigated the results of those July 2011 drug tests and found that “96 percent proved to be drug free”, another 2 percent never bothering to complete the lengthy application process, and 2 percent actually failing drug testing. At an average cost of $30 per test, the state was hemorrhaging tax dollars at a rate of “$28,800-$43,200 monthly”… FAR out pacing the supposed “savings” from preventing drug-abusers from gaming the system to buy drugs.” @ : https://jonathanturley.org/2013/04/14/drug-testing-welfare-recipients-to-prevent-abuse/ […]

  74. As a tax payer I agree with Florida making people who get government assistance getting drugged tested. I would much rather my tax money be spent on drug testing people then giving people money to be a druggie. I think people should be randomly drug tested so they don’t know when they will have to take the test so that they can’t find away to pass the test. How many people know people who have known about a drug test and passed it with using someone else’s urine or fake urine. I mean I know were I live there are a lot of people who are on drugs that live in government housing for very little money and use drugs daily. Or who live with the mother of there children and have a job making $13.00 a hour and are getting all kinds of assistance. I mean people open your eyes not everyone is taking advantage of the system but a lot are.

  75. Ava James,
    show us your evidence of your claims! The facts presented above tell a different picture than your claims. The abuse of the system is less than the cost to drug test people against their will.


  77. If you work for your money and hate to see it wasted, consider that when Utah started drug testing welfare recipients statewide, they caught a grand total of 12 people.


  79. “I find that in the 21st century, there’s not a lot of compassion for what other people are going through or the walk that they have to walk.”
    – Tori Amos

  80. You flunk a drug test at work. you have no job. Right? The idea of mandatory volentering for your benifits is not a bad idea. And this thing I read about infringement of peoples rights regarding the drug testing? that’s B.S What about the infringement of the people that have to pay taxes to suport these gov. fundings. Lets face it. Too many able, lazy people Collecting the benifits from tax-paying people. And for those self inflicted disabled. Cut them off.

  81. Infringement of rights because a welfare recipient is drug tested? Give me a break. You people obviously haven’t seen the reality of abuse in the system. First of all I lost my 22 year old son to a heroin overdose one year ago on Sept.30. Outpatient government funded treatment programs are a joke. Welfare recipients who get arrested for drugs are court ordered to attend an outpatient program or they lose their benefits. So they go to these programs and they openly sell drugs right in front of the place. They’re not interested in rehab. They’re only going there to keep the government assistance coming. So here they are, standing outside pushing heroin and whatever else to other rehab patients. I have seen it happen right in front of my eyes and nobody does anything because the place is afraid that they’ll lose their funding. So everybody looks the other way. I am so sick of everyone being afraid of infringing on welfare recipient’s rights. My husband’s daughter works for the welfare department in NJ. She says its ridiculous how the workers there are aware of the abuse but are not allowed to act on it. The welfare recipients get free housing, food stamps, phones, and furniture. They have even discovered that many times they sublet the free apartments that they’re getting, are selling and using drugs and often drive expensive cars but the welfare department is not allowed to question it because of “their rights”. So anyone that thinks that poor people who get government assistance shoukdnt be held to the same standards as the rest of us are wrong and do not know the reality of the abuse of the system.

  82. thefurrytail,
    I am sorry for your loss, but if what you say is true, how come Florida didn’t find it and Utah didn’t find the abuse at any level worth testing for??

  83. thefurrytail:

    I am very sorry for the loss of your son, but I suggest that your anger, though understandable, is misdirected. I have worked extensively for over fifteen years with attorneys who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. I have also worked with families in the juvenile justice system suffering the effects of substance abuse. And I have dealt with those issues in my immediate family.

    Outpatient treatment programs are a “joke” because we permit them to be. Society has made a determination that addiction is simply a moral failing rather than a disease. So we fund outpatient programs grudgingly, even though we know, or would know if we cared, that successful recovery requires that we treat the problems underlying the addiction. That typically requires a period of residential treatment, but those facilities are few and mostly expensive. Insurance companies provide virtually no coverage due to the high incidence of relapse. And of course, many addicts are simply tossed into prisons with the rest of society’s detritus.

    My experience with the people who work in these programs is that they are usually highly idealistic and committed, but many become increasingly demoralized and cynical due to the low pay, high case loads and lack of support. Burnout follows, and the most experienced move on to jobs in which their efforts will be recognized and appreciated.

    I am one who believes that government has an important role to play because of the tremendous social and economic cost of addiction. But that is an increasingly minority view in an increasingly Randian society. I predict that funding for drug treatment will continue to be cut.

  84. Mike A.,
    thanks for sharing your great experiences. I agree that drug treatment does not make as much money for for-profit prison corporations so the war on drugs will continue and funding will continue to shrink.

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