1 April 2013
Drug Testing Welfare Recipients
Welfare began during the great depression in the 1930’s then, just like now, there were many families that needed help from the government, and that is why they introduced welfare. In our world today there is social welfare, corporate welfare, child welfare, and many others that one can apply for. Other welfare programs, such as TANF and WIC, have truly made a difference in the lives of American families. Families are kept together, children are healthier and often times, recipients are able to use the welfare to help them as they find a new job. In some cases, welfare might even save lives. But, of course, the system has its flaws, and many argue that tax payer dollars are being wasted. Some citizens believe that recipients of welfare should undergo mandatory drug testing. There are many pros and cons of drug testing people on welfare. According to stopthedrugwar.com, lawmakers in several states want recipients to submit to random drug testing. Legislatures in at least 28 states are considering drug testing applicants or recipients of public assistant programs. Recently Oklahoma enacted a “drug testing law” another bill awaits the Governor’s signature in Tennessee. As you may have already heard, Florida recently became the first state to require adults applying for cash welfare assistance (i.e., not food stamps and housing assistance) to undergo drug screenings. Florida Gov. Rick Scott defended the new rule by arguing that: “It’s not right for taxpayer money to be paying for somebody’s drug addiction. … On top of that, this is going to increase personal responsibility and personal accountability. We shouldn’t be subsidizing people’s addiction.” Is it fair? Many people argue it definitely is. After all, welfare recipients accept millions of American dollars in aid every year. It would only be fair for them to be tested to ensure the assistance is dispersed of properly. Also, many places of employment practice random drug testing. If it happens in the workforce, why would it be unfair for welfare recipients? As quoted by an everyday working mom, “My stance is, I have to take a drug test to go to work, and pay in to this program. They should have to take a drug test to receive these free benefits. Now there has been some debate on whether you should have to pass a drug test for unemployment, and I would stand behind that as well. You most likely had to take a drug test to get the job you had when you were paying into the unemployment program.” Ultimately, the biggest positive of this program is that it would deter recipients from purchasing and using illegal drugs. This might mean they don't even need the welfare in the first place. Parental substance abuse and dependence have a negative impact on the physical and emotional well-being of children and can cause home environments to become chaotic and unpredictable, leading to child maltreatment. The children’s physical and emotional needs often take a back seat to their parents’ activities related to obtaining, using, or recovering from the use of drugs and alcohol. It could help social workers know when children are around drug abuse, and thus prevent further abuse in families. It could help lower the demand for illegal drugs on the streets. It could possibly even save the system some money, as those who are on drugs would not receive welfare. It could even create new jobs for people to oversee the drug testing. However, there are many cons of mandatory drug testing for people on welfare as well. One of the biggest negatives is that it is costly. Illegal drug testing is not cheap. It could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, even if just one of every five recipients was tested. However, this may be rationalized by saying that the cost that drugs have on our society in general would be lowered. Another negative is that some people who are on prescription medication could show false positives, and be discriminated against, even with a doctor's involvement. Many people argue that it is simply an invasion of privacy. Quoted from a welfare recipient, “I don't think testing is justified. The last time I checked, there was not a test for any other public benefit getting financial aid, getting unemployment benefits or a driver's license, getting medical care at a hospital, being able to get the police or fire department or ambulance to come to your home in an emergency, qualifying for veterans benefits, or getting a handicap parking sticker, etc., so I don't see why we should apply this test to some government benefits and not others. There is no rational basis to do so.” Welfare and public assistance programs are under scrutiny for many reasons. Drug testing of welfare recipients might help our society, or it could even make little or no difference at all. After weighing the pros and cons of this controversy what would you do?