Subjects: Behavioral health
West Virginia Republican delegate Craig Blair thinks that people who file for welfare, unemployment or food stamps ought to be drug-free. So he introduced a bill requiring applicants for such programs to undergo random drug testing.
He makes the case at notwithmytaxdollars.com.
“The message that we’re trying to send is, first of all, we need to respect taxpayers and how their monies are spent,” Blair told CNN. “Drug addiction is in epidemic proportions, and not only in West Virginia but throughout the United States.”
The bill proposes that people who fail the test would get benefits and 60 days to sober up. A second failed test would result in the loss of benefits for 2 years.
“It seems ironic that welfare and unemployment are both designed to get you back to work and everything, but how is that possible if you’re on drugs?” Blair wondered.
Nine other states are considering similar legislation, although proposals in Arizona and Michigan have either been nixed by the courts or deemed too expensive.
Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU’s Drug Law Reform Project, ridiculed the idea as “typical political theater. [You’d think] people would be more compassionate now that people have lost jobs,” Boyd added.
And the Brookings Institute’s Ron Haskins clarifies that “unemployment is really not a welfare program. It’s an insurance program. (People have) paid into the program each month they’ve had earnings,” he explained to CNN.
But Blair claims he’s been flooded with support for his proposal. The nation’s epidemic drug abuse problem and the tanking economy call for “tough love,” he said.
The Labor Department reports that 5.6 million people collect jobless checks right now, and nearly 32 million get food stamps.
That’s a lot of drug tests, Craig.