States Try Drug Tests For Welfare, Unemployment Aid; Impact Limited


Proposals to make welfare and unemployment checks contingent on drug testing have become a rallying cry in dozens of states, but the impact of drug-testing measures has been limited, says the New York Times. Supporters say the tests are needed to protect welfare and unemployment compensation funds. Their enactment has been hampered by legal challenges and the expense of running the programs, which generally uncover relatively few drug users. Drug testing of welfare recipients in Florida was halted by a federal judge, prompting delay in a similar program in Georgia. Measures in other states have been narrowed in scope, primarily to keep administrative costs low and avoid protracted court battles.

Last week, legislators in Michigan, after failing to agree on more robust drug-testing bills in recent years, approved a measure that would withhold unemployment compensation from people who fail drug tests given as part of job interviews. The approach, a one-year pilot program, leaves it up to prospective employers to screen applicants and does not force businesses to test or report the results. This year, at least 29 states considered drug testing for people who receive cash assistance from the primary federal welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, but only two measures passed, says the National Conference of State Legislatures. Ten states considered testing laws for unemployment compensation benefits, and two measures passed.

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