Is Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Constitutional?
Recently Floridas governor Rick Scott put a new drug testing law into action. This law calls for the drug testing of welfare recipients, simply because taxpayers do not want to support drug addictions, but would rather the money go toward necessities like children and food. What do we as Americans do about this? Are there options to reform the welfare system? Other states have attempted laws similar to this but none have succeeded. Why? Is drug testing welfare recipients unconstitutional?
WELFARE IN HISTORY
The goal of welfare is to assist individuals in a time of need, lift them out of poverty and make them self sufficient. The welfare system was introduced in the US in the 1930s during the depression. Until welfare reform in the mid 1990s, states were given limitless funds to aid families. This gave states no need or incentive to encourage people to get jobs, or direct more funds toward needier recipients. Under president Clinton, congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which gave control of welfare back to the states. The amount of welfare money the states were given was a flat rate based on the states population. Each state must meet criteria that proves that they are encouraging recipients to work themselves out of welfare. The new program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) encourages states to require an employment search for recipients, in exchange for the funds. Recipients can now only be on welfare for 5 years, and restricts welfare from legal immigrants and increases financial assistance for child care. After the welfare overhaul, there was a 60% drop in unemployment, and child poverty rates decreased. There was also a 35% increase in the affected families incomes. The overhaul was widely applauded.
The law, which went into effect July 1 2011, forces the Florida Department of Children and Family Services to require drug testing of the adult applicants in the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The applicants are notified that they will be drug taking a drug test, and to plan accordingly. They are required to pay for the test out of pocket, although if they pass the amount they spent on the test will be reimbursed to them in their first welfare payment. If in case you do fail the drug test, you may designate another adult individual to receive the benefits on behalf of the children, although you will not be compensated for the amount paid for the test. Drug testing is already common in many government jobs where taxpayers are footing the bill. (CNN)
PREVIOUS CASES IN HISTORY
Michigan also attempted to drug test welfare recipients, although failed in the long run.
“In the case Marchwinski v. Howard, the ACLU challenged Michigans
across the board testing and the district court ruled that it violated the
recipients fourth amendment rights against unreasonable searches. The
US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the decision, but then
withdrew the reversal after rehearing the case and splitting the vote”
(CLASP). Many other states have looked into introducing drug testing in their welfare policies, but due to its legality and cost it was never put into action. I feel that we need to push this issue in more states and eventually once people see that its what the public wants, there will be some kind of welfare reassessment.
DRUG TESTING WELFARE RECIPIENTS IS CONSTITUTIONAL
The fourth amendment of the United States constitution states:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to
be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The key word here is...
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