Michigan House Considers Drug Test for Some Welfare Applicants

By: Fay Li Email
By: Fay Li Email

Rep. Jeff Farrington, R-Utica, is pushing to pass a bill that will mandate a drug test for some people who apply and reapply for cash assistance from the state. The policy would be suspicion based, meaning applicants will be tested only if they're suspected of substance abuse in the first place. Rep. Farrington says it's a way to save taxpayer money.

"Why are their hard earned tax dollars going to people that are looking for cash assistance, but yet they have an illegal drug habit," said Rep. Farrington.

According to Farrington, making the test suspicion based ensures it's constitutional. He estimates it'll save the state around $1 million per year by not handing out cash to those who test positive.

However, the Michigan League for Human Services is calling this bill punitive.

"This is a solution that is looking for a problem," said MLHS CEO Gilda Jacobs.

Jacobs says the legislation will be a problem especially for children.

"Cash assistance is only for families that have children. Two thirds of the people that receive cash assistance are kids," Jacobs said.

Rep. Farrington believes otherwise.

"Do you think that cash is really going to the children if they have an illegal drug habit? My answer is no, I don't think it is."

He argues taking away the cash to help the adults get off illegal drugs will ultimately benefit the kids.

MLHS says there's no language in the bill to help those in trouble get back on track. Adding that language in is something Republican lawmakers say they're willing to consider.

As the bill is written now, the cost of the drug test will come out of the applicant's first welfare payment if he or she tests negative. If the applicant tests postive, the state will pay for the test.

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