Legislation that would require a clean drug test as a condition of welfare cash assistance eligibility is expected to be a hot topic in many states this year.
The Department of Human Services in the state of Michigan said late last month it is in the process of developing a drug screening policy for welfare recipients. Michigan’s DHS spokesperson said, “We have determined it is feasible to do this testing. What the exact process would be — that’s still to be determined… it’s being discussed, and I’d say it’s more than just a discussion. It’s a push in that direction, but it is not a done deal.”
Supporters of Michigan’s plan are attempting to make sure that everything is in place and would survive any legal challenges before instituting a new policy. A previous plan from 10 years ago was derailed after only a few months by federal courts.
Michigan isn’t the only state. Last July, Florida’s drug testing law became effective only to be put on hold in October by a federal judge who issued an injunction preventing Florida’s Department of Children and Families from further drug testing.
Missouri’s drug testing law went into effect in August. Their law states that people who test positive or refuse to be checked and fail to complete a substance abuse program will lose their benefits for three years. If the households that lose their benefits due to failing drug tests have children, the state will appoint a third-party to receive benefits on the children’s behalf. If a recipient who loses their benefits due to a failed drug test can maintain drug free for six months, their benefits will be reinstated.
To find out more about the different state and federal legislative proposals to require drug tests as a condition of welfare program eligibility you can read the APSE Issue Brief.
Proponents of these drug testing laws say that welfare benefits funded by taxpayers should not go to people who are using illegal drugs. Critics say the legislation singles out one group of people with little reason and my be unconstitutional. What are your thoughts?