States Adding Drug Test as Hurdle for Welfare
As more Americans turn to government programs for refuge from a merciless economy, a growing number are encountering a new price of admission to the social safety net: a urine sample.
Policy makers in three dozen states this year proposed drug testing for people receiving benefits like welfare, unemployment assistance, job training, food stamps and public housing. Such laws, which proponents say ensure that tax dollars are not being misused and critics say reinforce stereotypes about the poor, have passed in states including Arizona, Indiana and Missouri.
In Florida, people receiving cash assistance through welfare have had to pay for their own drug tests since July, and enrollment has shrunk to its lowest levels since the start of the recession.
The flood of proposals across the country, enabled by the strength of Republicans in many statehouses and driven by a desire to cut government spending, recall the politics of the ’80s and ’90s, when higher rates of drug abuse and references to “welfare queens” led to policies aimed at ensuring that public benefits were not spent to support addiction.
Supporters of the policies note that public assistance is meant to be transitional and that drug tests are increasingly common requirements for getting jobs.