Mandatory Drug Testing for Welfare

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Drug Testing for Welfare

Health care, food stamps, child care assistance, unemployment, cash aid, and housing assistance are all forms of welfare in the United States. “In fiscal year 1995, federal, state, and local governments spent about $1.5 trillion on social welfare programs, an increase of $69.4 billion (5 percent) from 1994” (Joseph 1). Substance abuse is a major financial burden which “In 1998… cost Americans an estimated $110 billion in expenses and lost revenue” (Lyman and Potter 8). According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, performed by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, 8.7 percent of the population nationally over age 12 uses illicit drugs. The rate was 6.3 percent for those ages 26 and up (Whittenburg). Mandatory drug testing for welfare benefits should be implemented in order to eliminate excessive tax dollars from being spent carelessly on individuals who may be taking advantage of the welfare system.

Random drug testing of welfare recipients would save the government and taxpayers money each year. In Drugs in Society: Causes, Concepts and Control, the authors state that “Americans spend $277 per year in state taxes to deal with the effects of substance abuse” (Lyman and Potter 8). While there is debate over the cost of random drug screening Aliyah Shahid states in her article “If welfare candidates pass the drug screening, they’ll be reimbursed for the test” (Shahid). The average price per test is $30. On average, a welfare recipient costs the state $134 in monthly benefits, which the rejected applicants won't get, saving the state $2,680-$3,350 per month. But since one failed test disqualifies an applicant for a full year's worth of benefits, the state could save $32,200-$48,200 annually on the applicants rejected in a single month.

Testing for substance use would also encourage people who are receiving benefits to use them to actually help their families. If a person is down on their luck because of losing their job or the ongoing economic crisis and they qualify for state aid, they should consider it a blessing and use the money for what it was given to them for. Random drug testing would be an incentive for welfare recipients to not use drugs. “… experts have discovered that drug testing by the government during the Vietnam War played a significant role in deterring soldiers from using drugs, especially when testing was linked to punishment” (Lyman and Carter 341). When a person or family is in need of financial help, whether it be food, medical, or housing, they should be tested for illegal substances. If they disagree with being tested, then they shouldn’t receive benefits. No one is forcing them to apply for help but, as a condition, a drug test should be performed to eradicate people who are attempting to fraud the welfare system. Individuals who are using drugs and abusing the welfare system should be held accountable for their own actions. “Applicants for the federal Assistance for Needy Families program who test positive for illicit substances won’t be eligible for the funds for a year, or until they undergo treatment. Those who fail a second time would be banned from receiving the funds for three years” (Shahid).

When a person is hired at a new job, chances of receiving a pre-employment drug screen are very good. A potential employer can randomly screen an employee for drugs as well. Why not have the same policies in effect for receiving welfare and test those who are living off of the earnings of the productive? Included in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) is the 1988 experimental Job Opportunities and Basic Skills program “which required that for 20 hours every week, recipients would have to engage in work or related activities, which included training, unless their children were under 6” (Haugen and DeMott 31). How many people on welfare are actively seeking employment? “The 1996 federal...
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