A proposal from two GOP members of the Ohio House of Representatives would require welfare applicants to be screened and tested for drugs.
Tim Schaffer and Ron Maag want a two-year pilot program in three counties to test the idea, which would invalidate welfare payments to recipients if they test positive for drugs. The applicant would have to complete a short substance abuse screening test; if there was evidence of drug abuse, a drug test would be administered. But the children and dependents of the recipient would still receive benefits because a third party could accept the cash payment.
Maag told Cincinnati.com, “We’re not trying to hurt them in any way. We’re trying to get the person addicted to drugs some help.”
The bill would cost $100,000 annually, $6,250 for every 5,000 screening tests and roughly $30 per drug test. The bill would be funded by applicants who failed the drug test. The bill will be brought before the House on Wednesday.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is fighting the bill; Mike Brickner, senior policy director, lectured that the bill fosters “an ugly and false stereotype” that people on welfare are more likely to use drugs.
The National Conference of State Legislatures acknowledged that at least 13 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah) have laws requiring welfare recipients to pass drug tests.
Schaffer pointed that fact out when defending his bill, stating, “There are other states pulling ahead of us and putting this concept on the road, and I don’t want Ohio citizens to be left behind … This is not a spurious campaign. This is not a figment of the imagination. We have a serious problem with this program in Ohio.”
Schaffer and Maag also have said if a bill were passed demanding legislators undergo drug tests, they would support it. Schaffer said, “I have no problem with it.” Maag echoed, “I don’t either.”