Posted in drug testing, drug testing for welfare recipients
Earlier this month, eleven governors urged congressional lawmakers via a letter to support a proposal that would give states the right to drug-test food stamp recipients.
Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt introduced a proposal in February that would scrap the drug-test restriction, aiming to reduce fraud and abuse within the food stamp system. The eleven Republican governors that sent the letter in support are urging others in Congress to also support the proposal.
“We believe that Congress specifically gave states the flexibility to decide whether to implement this common-sense reform,” the letter noted. “Welfare programs typically have job training requirements as a core element, we write today to express our sincere confidence that drug testing recipients of SNAP benefits is not only lawful, but will aid in our ability to move individuals off of this welfare program.”
Welfare drug testing has long been a point of contention in politics – and this certainly isn’t the first attempt to implement it. Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, for example, joined the letter following several failed attempts of his own to drug test welfare recipients in his state.
“The legislation authored by Congressman Robert Aderholt confirms states’ rights to drug test SNAP recipients, and we look forward to working with him on this crucial issue and implementing this common-sense reform in Wisconsin,” Walker said in a statement.
Opponents, however, claim that the cost of implementing these drug tests far exceed any savings. One study suggests that states spent $850,909.25 on welfare drug testing regimes in 2015 to uncover just 321 positive tests.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing for welfare recipients, drug tests, welfare drug testing
Three years ago, Maine passed legislation that would require all welfare recipients to undergo drug tests in order to receive benefits. However, in all this time, the drug-testing program was not rolled out, as the state’s attorney general had yet to approve the plan.
However, in mid-January, the attorney general finally approved the program, provided the Department of Health and Human Services make some changes to the plan. One such change requires applicants of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program fill out a questionnaire that may help determine if applicants are likely to be taking illegal drugs.
The questionnaire is an effort to avoid the types of lawsuits that have been plaguing welfare programs in other states. (Florida’s welfare policy was rejected outright in a federal appeals court after all welfare applicants were required to pay for their own drug tests. The Maine drug tests are expected to cost $62 per person, presumably paid for by the DHHS.)
The questionnaire will ask applicants if they have been convicted of any drug-related felonies; if they have, they will be required to undergo drug tests. If an applicant fails the drug test, he or she may still be eligible for welfare if they get assistance through a rehabilitation or substance abuse program.
Welfare drug testing programs have not proven to be very effective. Other states that have unveiled similar programs — such as Tennesee and Utah — have found that only 1 to 2 percent of those applying for welfare benefits have tested positive for illegal substances.
Maine’s DHHS plans to begin drug-testing welfare applicants, but is not sure when they will get started.
Posted in drug testing, drug testing for welfare recipients, employee drug screening
The U.S. Supreme Court has turned down an appeal to hear arguments about Florida’s controversial drug-testing policy, which lower courts have declared unconstitutional. In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott signed executive orders that required mandatory drug testing for all state employees, and those receiving welfare benefits. Since the orders were given, state and federal judges have ruled both orders unconstitutional for reasons of privacy and violating the 4th Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Despite Florida courts and lower-level federal courts declaring the law unconstitutional, Gov. Scott has continued to file appeals to higher courts, a process that has cost Florida taxpayers upwards of $380,000 for the various lawsuits, according to the Florida American Civil Liberties Union. That figure does not include lawyers’ fees.
“Every court that has heard Gov. Scott’s argument that the state has the power to compel people to submit their bodily fluids for government inspection without suspicion of wrongdoing has rejected it as a violation of the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches,” said Florida ACLU Staff Attorney Shalini Goel Agarwal. “It’s become a costly and embarrassing boondoggle for Floridians.”
Since the Supreme Court has declined to hear Scott’s appeal, the decision made by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will be upheld. That court ruled that state employees should not be required to submit to urine testing unless they are suspected of drug use, except in job situations that may affect public safety.
Scott has also appealed an Orlando federal judge’s decision that welfare recipients will not be forced to undergo mandatory drug tests. Scott argues that this type of drug testing would save the state money. However, in the few months after he signed the executive order before the courts intervened, the overwhelming majority of welfare recipients tested negative for drugs, and so the bulk of the costs of testing fell to the taxpayers with little saved in benefits.
photo credit: Mark Fischer via photopin cc
Posted in drug testing for welfare recipients, welfare drug testing, welfare recipients
Texas became the latest state to implement drug testing for welfare recipients when lawmakers approved a bill last week that would require drug testing for some of those seeking unemployment benefits.
Under the bill, first-time unemployment applicants who are looking for jobs in fields that require drug testing (e.g. trucking, aviation or hazardous material industries) must undergo a preliminary written screening test. If the test shows that an applicant is likely to be a drug user, that person must then pass a drug test in order to receive their unemployment benefits.
Applicants who fail the drug test can either enroll in a drug treatment program, which would make them eligible for unemployment, or reapply for benefits after 30 days.
House Republican Brandon Creighton, the bill’s sponsor, claims that the measure will help to ensure that unemployment benefits are available “to help those that need [them] the most,” while encouraging more drug users to seek treatment.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that Texas is now the 9th state to pass laws that deal with drug screening and testing for those seeking public assistance, joining Kansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah.
Drug testing for welfare applicants and recipients
Welfare drug screening laws are a welcome addition for many, who justify such legislation by suggesting that anyone applying for or receiving welfare should not be an exception to the drug screening rules that many employed taxpayers are subjected to.
Nonetheless, there will also always be critics. Democratic opponents to this Texas bill say that there is no evidence that those applying for unemployment benefits are any more likely to be drug users. “Losing a job is a very traumatic thing,” Turner said on the House floor, according to Thomson Reuters. “Aren’t we just adding insult to injury in what is a very traumatic situation already?”
Whether right or wrong, we have no doubt that more states will follow the path of implementing welfare drug testing legislation in the near future.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing for welfare recipients, welfare drug testing
State officials in Tennessee are eyeing drug-testing programs for welfare recipients in six other states as they work on a similar effort in their own state, according to The Tennessean.
Legislation approved this year mandates the drug-testing program and gives the Department of Human Services until January 2014 to finalize a plan. Over the next two years, the department must submit quarterly progress reports to two General Assembly committees.
“The Department hopes to gain insight on how other states have implemented their policy as well as any obstacles that they have faced along the way,” Department of Human Services Commissioner Raquel Hatter wrote in a four-page letter that serves as the first progress report.
Welfare drug testing has been a hot topic of debate for a while now, and the new state law in Tennessee requires suspicion-based drug testing for anyone seeking aid through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the federal welfare program administered by states. Tennessee officials researched similar efforts in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah.
In all six states, failing a drug test would make a resident ineligible for benefits for a defined period of time, ranging from one month to three years. Although most of the states have provisions that would reduce the amount of time if the person enters a drug rehabilitation program.
Any sort of drug screening legislation will no doubt be a welcome addition for many, who are justified in claiming that welfare recipients should not be an exception to the drug screening rules that many employed taxpayers are subjected to.
Nonetheless, there will always be critics, particularly when it comes to such a controversial topic. Critics claim that drug testing welfare recipients is simply not a cost-effective measure and not a valid use of taxpayers dollars – with money saved being only a fraction of that which is spent on the tests.
What’s your opinion on drug testing for welfare recipients? Are you for or against it?
Posted in drug testing, drug testing for welfare recipients, drug testing policy
The Florida State Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure (HB 1205) by a nonpartisan 26-14 vote, rejecting concerns that suspicionless, random drug testing of government workers is unconstitutional to the state’s 100,000-plus workforce.
The bill sponsor Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, argued that public and private sector workers should be subjected to the same requirements and that the screening could help prevent addiction. And, he said, not requiring the tests could be dangerous.
“What you’re going to create then is a haven for abusers,” Hays said. “Then drug abusers will know they’re safe if they come to work for the state of Florida.”
Scott’s legal team has helped the bill’s House and Senate sponsors persuade lawmakers that the drug screening will be upheld even as they defend the policy in court. The governor is being sued over a drug-testing policy he imposed on state workers last year. After the ACLU and the state workers’ union sued the state, Scott in June quietly reversed his order for all but corrections officers pending the outcome of the case.
Miami U.S. District judge Ursula Ungaro, who heard the case against Scott last week, expressed serious doubts about the governor’s order and “had trouble understanding the circumstances under which the order would be valid.”
The measure would allow Scott’s agency heads to decide whether they want to institute the policy and require that they use money already in their budgets to cover the costs of the tests, which range from $5 to $40.
“How many private employers drug-screen workers? A lot do,” Scott told a Miami meeting of business leaders. “Why? You want to have a workforce that you know is doing the right things. Shouldn’t your state workers do that?”
Only last week were Florida’s drug testing policies questioned, but it seems to have not deterred the state from it’s mission to clean up the state workforce. Only time will tell as to whether this is a cost-effective and reliable way of doing that.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing for welfare recipients, welfare drug testing
Welfare drug testing is nothing new. It has been causing debate for a while now, as we see drug testing for welfare recipients legislation being introduced in states across the country. Florida has certainly been one of the key states in this debate.
The debate has taken another turn, as Rep. Paige Kreegel claimed last week that about 800 refused to take the welfare drug test in Florida, and the assumption should be that “a person would (only) refuse to take a urine drug test because they were afraid of being caught with drugs”.
How valid is this number?
While only 83 failed the drug test, if you include the 800 or so that refused to take the test, then “all together there’s 1,000 people out there on drugs. Nine out of ten of them are smart enough not to take the drug test”, according to Kreegel.
The drug test is the final requirement to receive temporary cash assistance, or TANF as it’s called, after the agency verifies an applicant’s income, background, child support and ID. Applicants pay an average of $35 for the test up front and are reimbursed by the state if they pass.
Although sources are not sure where Kreegel learned that 80 or so people failed the test, or that 800 or so people declined to take it, though he said it was from a newspaper story. Several stories were found that measured the requirement’s effectiveness throughout its tenure, but they didn’t use those numbers.
Kreegel’s figure of about 80 failed tests is not far from the tally over four months of practice, according to the Department of Children and Families, which administers the TANF program. He actually underestimated it.
Of the 4,086 applicants who scheduled drug tests, 108 people failed their tests, a fail rate of 2.6 percent, according to DCF. About 1 percent of applicants, or 42, scheduled tests but canceled them.
About 96.3 percent of applicants passed the screenings. The high pass rate means the state paid out more than $100,000 in reimbursements to applicants who passed over the four-month period.
Aside from the obvious, why would people refuse the drug test?
“There is no way to determine why someone did not take the test,” said Joe Follick, DCF spokesman. “We did not have the capacity or legal authority to survey each applicant’s decision-making process.”
They might not have enough money to pay for the tests up front and wait for state reimbursement. They might find a job in the meantime and not need benefits. They might leave the state for work or for personal reasons. They might qualify for other benefits that make them ineligible for the program. They might be unable to find a nearby testing center.
As you can see, there are various other reasons people may wish to not take a drug test. However, this doesn’t deter supporters of the legislation. What do you think? Should welfare recipients be drug tested?
Posted in drug screening, drug test, drug testing for welfare recipients
Under the payroll tax deal sought by congressional negotiators, drug screening for those on welfare would see a significant increase. States would be permitted to screen claimants who lost their jobs because they failed or refused a drug test and people seeking new jobs that generally require drug tests.
According to a 2006 survey cited by Republicans, 84 percent of employers required new hires to pass a drug test. Federal law currently does not allow states to deny benefits for reasons other than misconduct, fraud or disqualifying earnings – so this move is a significant one.
I’m glad that it’s in there,” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) told HuffPost in an interview. Kingston was the first Republican in Congress last year to propose drug testing for those collecting unemployment. “I think that it will be a helpful tool for states.”
The drug screening proposal is part of a larger bill, in which the maximum duration of unemployment insurance would gradually fall from 99 weeks to 73 weeks. While that does seem like quite a drop, if no bill was passed the the longest time people could claim benefits would abruptly drop to 26 weeks at the end of February when federal unemployment programs are set to expire.
This could affect nearly 1 million people who have been out of work for six months or longer.
The drug screening legislation will no doubt be a welcome addition for many, who are justified in claiming that welfare recipients should not be an exception to the drug screening rules that many employed taxpayers are subjected to.
Nonetheless, there will always be critics. Particularly when it comes to such a controversial topic. Critics claim that drug testing welfare recipients is simply not a cost-effective measure and not a valid use of taxpayers dollars – with money saved being only a fraction of that which is spent on the tests.
What do you think? Should welfare recipients be drug tested?
Posted in background check, background checks, drug screening, drug testing for welfare recipients, drugs in the workplace, Mind Your Business Inc
As another year comes to an end, it’s time again for reflection. 2011 was the first full year of the Mind Your Business blog, so what better way to look back at the last twelve months than to pick out our top 12 blog posts?
So with a post for each month, here are our top posts of 2011:
January: One of our earliest posts in 2011 discussed how several states were considering introducing drug tests for those on welfare. What a massive topic of debate this has turned out to be over the last year:
February: This month saw our five-post explanation of NAPBS, and the relationship we have with them:
March: Founder and CEO of Mind Your Business Karen Caruso was selected as 2011 North Carolina Small Business Person of the Year. A fantastic source of pride and achievement for both Karen and MYB:
April: An explanation of why, and how, employers will check references as part of the pre-employment screening process:
May: Have you ever considered as to why drug testing is so important in the workplace? Find out in a excellent post we published back in May:
June: Taking a look at why background checks are performed, and what it is that employers are really looking for:
July: When you hear “background checks”, what type of check comes to mind? There are many different types of background check, and July saw a great post explaining all about them:
August: We discussed what it is that makes a women-owned small business extraordinary:
September: Mind Your Business entered into the world of social media, and created a Facebook fan page. Three months on, and we can also be found on Twitter and LinkedIn:
October: Karen Caruso had the honor to meet Barack Obama in October, as the President started a bus tour promoting his jobs bill with a visit to Asheville:
November: We delved into the history books for this one, coming up with a blog post on the history of drug testing and how it has progressed over the last few generations:
December: As we headed towards Christmas, we published a post with some great advice on how to protect yourself and your business over the holiday period:
* * * * *
This is our top list, but what about you? Which was your favorite blog post over the past 12 months?
Posted in drug screening, drug test, drug testing for welfare recipients
This year has been a significant one for drug testing – in particular, drug testing for welfare recipients. One state in which this really sparked controversy was Florida, with Rick Scott implementing it in May only for others to be calling for the law to be repealed a couple of months later. In what has surely been one of the most controversial years for the welfare system, where do we stand now as we head towards 2012?
Currently, 36 states have implemented welfare drug testing – a huge leap since Michigan proposed the idea only 10 years ago. “You have to fight the scourge (of drug abuse) somehow,” said state Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, the House sponsor of Tennessee’s drug testing bill. “If people are getting taxpayer money, the taxpayers have a right to know who that money is going to.”
Critics see these drug testing bills as an unfair slight on a struggling population. Note that when Florida instituted mandatory drug tests this year, all but 0.4% of new welfare applicants and 2% of current welfare recipients tested clean. While this may have saved the state a little money in the grand scheme of things, it certainly undermined Scott’s claim that a significant number of welfare recipients were drug users.
In Tennessee, the fiscal note attached to Dunn’s bill estimates that it would cost $2.3 million a year to test a quarter of the adults receiving aid this year, then $3.8 million to test another 25 percent the following year, and $2.4 million to continue testing part of the welfare population every year thereafter. “We want to punish drug users, not taxpayers,” Dunn said.
The trouble is, the worse the economy gets, the more people need social services. But the worse the economy gets, the less money is available to them.
What for 2012?
With federal and state budgets getting ever tighter, there is increasing pressure to conclude as to whether drug testing of welfare recipients is a cost-effective measure. Ultimately, does it save the taxpayer money?
In theory, it should. And in practice it is hard to imagine these bills failing. Taxpayers should not be passing over their hard earned cash to individuals who are using it for drugs. Whether or not supporters of the bills can achieve this before the critics have built a strong enough case for repeal, time will only tell.
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