Bill Requires Drug Test to Get Cash Assistance

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It's a controversial legislation that has supporters and opponents battling it out from the beginning. H.B. 4118 requires suspicion-based drug screening for applicants and recipients of cash assistance from the Family Independence Program.

"To treat people that are on welfare differently we think is just another attack on people because of their economic status," said Shelli Weisberg, Legislative Director at ACLU of Michigan.

However, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jeff Farrington (R-Utica) disagrees, saying a drug test is often a required part of pre-employment screening.

"If someone has to take a drug test to get a job, the same standard should be used to get welfare assistance."

Both sides can agree on at least one thing, that making the screening suspicion based makes the bill constitutional. As it stands now, the Department of Human Services would be required to identify suspicious applicants or recipients through a survey or empirically validated test.

"Using data proven methodology, it's something they use in psychology, in a lot of the research medical areas," Rep. Farrington explained.

The cost to taxpayers to develop this screening program is unknown at this time, but ACLU already said it's money that won't be well spent.

"We think there are better ways to deal with this and we think the State of Michigan should be spending its money to deal with help for those people who are drug addicted," said Weisberg.

Rep. Farrington argues the program helps save taxpayer money and provides support for those who may have a drug addiction.

"Right now that money is probably not going toward helping the family anyway. If this is someone with an illegal drug habit, it's really not going where it's suppose to be going so we want to put them on the right track for them and their family as well as making them job ready going forward once they come off of welfare," said Rep. Farrington.

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