Essay On Welfare Drug Testing

Should Welfare Recipients Be Drug Tested?

There is an ongoing debate over whether or not welfare recipients should be drug tested to receive the benefits. Both sides of the argument have merit. Those who oppose the idea of drug testing say that it is unconstitutional and violates the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, they claim that this law stereotypes and discriminates against those from low socioeconomic demographics, implying that because they are poor, they must be drug addicts. However, those who support the law note that its intended purpose is to ensure that taxpayer money is not being squandered on people who only plan to abuse this assistance. Only nine states so far have instituted drug testing of candidates for welfare assistance. This drug testing has proven to be prohibitively expensive in many cases. Consequently, some states only test subjects with whom they find suspicion, or who have admitted to past drug use. Though proposed drug testing of welfare applicants initially appears to be a good idea to eliminate potential abusers of the system from receiving assistance, it appears that even more money may be wasted on the testing process, which negates the savings that are the primary objective of the law.
Welfare assistance itself is provided from monies managed by a federally funded program that provides health care, food stamps, child care assistance, unemployment benefits, cash aid, and housing to citizens in need. It is categorized the governmental umbrella of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). According to Welfare Information, eligibility is determined by net income, family size, and any crisis situation such as: pregnancy, homelessness, or unemployment (2014). TANF also requires the recipient to obtain employment within two years of receiving benefits (2014). A majority of the monies that support welfare come from taxes paid by working class citizens and donations from large private companies.
In addition to the requirement for employment as a condition for a continuance of benefits, “states have proposed drug testing of applicants and recipients of public welfare benefits since federal welfare reform in 1996” (Finzel, 2014). While some states test recipients based upon suspicion of drug use, others choose to test all applicants.
In 1999, Michigan was the first state to implement a suspicionless drug testing policy as a condition for receiving welfare benefits. A district court struck down the policy on the Fourth Amendment grounds, and the Sixth Circuit court ultimately divided, upholding the district court’s injunction and putting a temporary stop to the policy. However, the constitutional issues remain undecided. (Goetzl, 2013, p. 1539)
Currently, politicians from twenty-four states have proposed legislation to institute drug testing as a condition for welfare determination, but only nine have formally approved it. Those states are: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah (Finzel, 2014)....

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Should welfare recipients be drug tested?

Welfare recipients should not be drug tested due to various reasons. Firstly, testing people to provide to them aid is unconstitutional. According to the constitution, the welfare is set aside to provide a reprieve to the poor citizens. Therefore, imposing the law of them being tested first is tantamount to discriminating them in a bid to deny them their right. Moreover, testing them infringes on their Fourth Amendment Right that protects them from unreasonable search and seizure. Being poor does not establish a reasonable suspicion or reason that one is a regular user or reliant on drugs. Additionally, for such a test to be imposed or one is searched, they must willing give consent. However, relying on welfare for survival is not deliberate but because of lack of choice. Hence, to conduct these drug tests is tantamount to infringing on one’s constitutional rights.

Secondly, testing for drugs of these individuals does not work and only results in high costs. Testing of these people operates on the assumption that they use the welfare they receive on drugs. In states that have already begun utilizing this law, it has seen them spend considerable amounts of taxpayers’ money, only to find a negligible number of recipients. For instance, Utah used about 65,000 dollars and only caught twenty-nine people. The process, therefore, points to a high wastage of money on an exercise that proves not worth all the funds poured into it.

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Thirdly, recipients of welfare do not use more drugs compared to other individuals receiving government relief or reprieve. Pushing for such a law is an assumption that the poor are potential drug users. However, researchers have sufficiently proven that the poor do not use more drugs as compared to other people but spend their money on basic needs such as food and clothes. Therefore, the suspicion is unfounded. Additionally, it brings about unfairness because not only poor people benefit from government benefits. For example, citizens that take up home mortgages benefit from government deductions amounting to 70 billion dollars yearly. However, they are not subjected to any drug tests. Henceforth, if the aim of this law was to ensure the government’s funds do not fuel bad behavior, individuals benefiting from government’s welfare, deductions or tax credits among others should receive the same treatment.

Fourthly, conducting drug tests among these people may elicit a reduction in drug use but does not help those reliant on the drugs. Individuals who rely on welfare are likely to avoid the use of narcotics. Nevertheless, to those caught with drugs in their systems, refusing to provide welfare to them that they greatly need does not deal with this problem, as drug addicts require the services of a rehabilitation center to wean them off the drugs. Thus, kicking them off the program only sees the problem continue.

Instituting mandatory testing affects children of the poor. A high percentage of persons that benefit from the welfare are children. Enacting the drug test is likely to affect the children of a drug abuser significantly. If their beneficiaries are caught with drugs in their systems; they are denied welfare that in turn increases the suffering of these children more than necessary as they are made to pay for their parents’ mistakes.

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