Drug testing for Welfare recipients


The House has voted to cut nearly $4 billion a year from food stamps, a 5 percent reduction to the nation's main feeding program used by more than 1 in 7 Americans.

The 217-210 vote was a win for conservatives after Democrats united in opposition and some GOP moderates said the cut was too high.

The bill's savings would be achieved by allowing states to put broad new work requirements in place for many food stamp recipients and to test applicants for drugs. The bill also would end government waivers that have allowed able-bodied adults without dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely.

Food stamps' cost has more than doubled in the last five years as the economy struggled through the Great Recession.

Bills that would deny unemployment benefits to people who refuse to take drug tests required by employers and that would mandate community service for people receiving public assistance were approved in the state Senate and a House committee Wednesday.

The drug-testing bill, which passed the House Commerce Committee on a 12-4 vote with three Democrats passing on the issue, would deny unemployment benefits for people who either refused to take a drug test required by an employer or tested positive.

The community service bill, which passed the Senate on a 27-9 vote, would require people receiving food stamps or other welfare benefits to participate in community service or other work-related activities in order to be eligible for the assistance.

Republicans called the bills common sense.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with requiring folks to have a little skin in the game,” said Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township. “All they have to do is a little community service to get their benefits.”

But Democrats said the GOP was targeting low-income people for political purposes leading into the 2014 election season, as Republicans continued to push bills that the party’s conservative base would support.

The bills continue a trend that began earlier this year with proposed legislation that targets public assistance recipients for suspicion-based drug testing, and a proposal that allows benefits to be denied if a child is truant from school. Those bills have passed the House and await action in the Senate.

“Wholesale drug testing without suspicion is simply illegal,” said Shelli Weisberg, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union in Michigan. “If we’re going down the road of drug testing for people who receive benefits, then we better start drug testing legislators.”

State Rep. Jon Switalski, D-Warren, offered an amendment to the drug-testing bill that would do that, but it failed.

“If the majority feels that drug testing for people on the public dole is good policy, then it’s clearly in the interest of good public policy to test all of us on the public dole,” he said. “But this is a bill about the elections in 2014 and nothing else.”

Anti-tax activist Bill McMaster noted that the bills don’t take into account Michigan’s support in a 2008 ballot initiative for the use of medical marijuana.

“It’s somewhat mysterious to me that you’re trying to eliminate the will of the people on the medical marijuana front,” he said. “A good number of people are employed successfully who are using medical marijuana.”

Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield, said it didn’t make sense to make someone — such as a single mother, for example — have to pay child care costs because of state-required community service. He offered an amendment — which ultimately failed — that would require the Department of Human Services to pick up child care costs while parents performed community service.

“We need to give residents a helping hand and not force them to do other things to get assistance from the state,” he said.

The drug-testing bill (HB 4952) now moves to the full House. The community service bill (SB276) moves to the House for consideration.

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Recent Comments »

billydeewilliams site profile image  

9/22/13 5:42 PM by billydeewilliams

Florida passed the law because governor Rick Scott had stake in the testing company. At least thats what I recall reading.

Samoa site profile image  

9/22/13 5:07 PM by Samoa

Wouldn't a shithole state (I think that's what you mean) like Florida have worse (higher) positive tests than the rest of the country? I mean if Florida's tested population was a low percent wouldn't that mean that the rest of the country's positive test rate would probably be even lower?Or are you saying that Florida can't be trusted to count votes so clearly they can't be trusted to test for drugs? ;)

Dust601 site profile image  

9/22/13 5:00 PM by Dust601

Are people really using statistics from the state of Florida in a argument? I'm not saying I know for certain the cost/saved money ratio, but come on..... Florida???? How is it even still a state?

Tidbits site profile image  

9/21/13 12:13 PM by Tidbits

So you support wasting tax payer money....good to know.

Skpotamus site profile image  

9/21/13 12:31 AM by Skpotamus

Check the link in my post, it was a rebuttal to the claim a politician made that 800 people refused to be tested (and therefore, didn't get their welfare checks). I edited it a few minutes after i posted the original to include that link. When people are counting the savings from drug testing, they're ignoring the people who refuse to test, like those 42 who scheduled and noshowed, and the 2300 that refused to test. Well, the engineering statistics I took might have been different than the statistics class you took. What I was taught:Statistic samples that small are worthless. Asking 10 people whether they preferred coke vs pepsi could lead you to believe that nobody drinks pepsi. Likewise, a sample of 4,000 people in a state that has over 87000 people on welfare is worthless. That's what, 4% of the welfare population of florida? It also ignores those 2300 people who refused to take the test. numbers for welfare in state of florida (it's old, 2008, and back then they had a growth of almost 17%):http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/01/25/us/20090126-welfare-table.html?_r=0The origin of the drug testing for welfare recipients was a gut check reaction for most people. It was then further fueled by the government report that 9.6% of welfare recipients were admitted drug users. Compared to 6.8% of families not on welfare. http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/11/DrugTesting/ib.shtmlWelfare needs an overhaul, drug testing isn't the best way to do it, but it does seem to work somewhat. At least in Florida with the new welfare applicants who walked away rather than be tested.

BradGluckman site profile image  

9/20/13 3:13 PM by BradGluckman

Very cost effective especially for the kids

Stupidnewbie site profile image  

9/20/13 3:09 PM by Stupidnewbie

If you want to eliminate drug users, that is the most cost-effective way to do it. Nice rebuttal, though! Very thought-provoking.

Animal Mother site profile image  

9/20/13 3:07 PM by Animal Mother

This is the absolute worst idea ever.

gregbrady site profile image  

9/20/13 2:48 PM by gregbrady

I assure you it was the adderallno way you pissed hot for meth after 3 weeks

gregbrady site profile image  

9/20/13 2:46 PM by gregbrady

VUthis appeals to the dumbest members of the Republican base and no one else