An Ohio Senate subcommittee has agreed to hear the case for making drug tests mandatory for welfare recipients, reports the Columbus Dispatch. The bill was introduced over a year ago, but now contains revisions including $100,000 allotted to rehab and treatment programs. Another provision modifies the original requirement by only testing people who admit on the application that they have used illegal drugs. Applicants must pass the drug test before they can receive benefits.
Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-OH) sponsored the bill, claiming that he actually intends to help Ohioans with drug problems:
Sen. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, said the legislation would help alleviate drug use among low-income Ohioans and ensure that public-assistance dollars are used to help families through hard times, not to support drug habits. “If they need help, they will get it,” Schaffer said.
“It is our hope this pilot program will break generational drug usage and end the death by drug abuse for too many of our citizens. They deserve more from us than a generic handout. They need our assistance in getting their lives on track for both them and their dependents,” Crawford County Commissioner Jenny Vermillion testified before the Senate Committee.
In fact, the welfare drug test has been a popular policy among Republican lawmakers who would like to undermine welfare programs and cut down on eligible recipients. Ohio Democrats responded to last year’s proposal for a welfare drug test with their own legislation that would require the state’s elected officials to also submit to a drug test.
Florida, another state that implemented the mandatory drug test, saved nothing on welfare benefits and failed to reduce the number of applications in the law’s brief four-month life span. Only 108 people tested positive for drugs out of 4,086 applicants. The Florida experiment only served to prove that welfare recipients are actually less likely to abuse drugs than the general public.
Despite the evidence, the welfare drug test has gained traction in several Republican-dominated state legislatures, including Kansas and Virginia. Virginia’s proposal failed last year when it was determined that the drug tests would cost the state $1.5 million to administer the tests and save only $229,000 in benefits stripped from recipients who tested positive. The costly requirement serves only to stigmatize welfare recipients and perpetuate the misguided stereotype that low-income Americans are irresponsible drug addicts. Ohio’s bill could also expose the state to expensive lawsuits, as mandatory drug testing has been struck down time and again in the courts.