Should the poor be punished for their drug use? Legislation dating back to the 1960's protects the jobless applying for unemployment benefits from drug screening. This may change, as the Department of Labor rescinded an Obama regulation that now allows states to decide whether or not to drug-test recipients of government benefits.
Congress recently voted to use a Congressional Review Act to undo the rule issued by the Obama administration in 2012. Now they can write a new rule or have the DOL write one. Either way, states will certainly be given wide authority to implement drug tests.
Republicans in Congress, such as Rep. Kevin Brady, from Texas, called drug testing an “important reform to help qualified unemployed workers in their quest to find a new job.”
Another Texas Republican, Rep. Pete Sessions, has said it “benefits the unemployed by helping to assure future employers that unemployment claimants reentering the workforce are truly able and available for work.”
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has pushed forward legislation in his own state to drug test people who receive unemployment benefits and food stamps. He also has written a letter to the Trump administration asking fellow Republicans to follow suit.
Some are concerned by the numbers. Firstly $1.3 million was spent to find just 369 drug users according to thinkprogress.org
Secondly, Republicans in Congress appear eager to expand testing.
Rep. Pete Sessions, said it “benefits the unemployed by helping to assure future employers that unemployment claimants reentering the workforce are truly able and available for work.”
One concern is that those who test positive and need help might not get it. According to thinkprogress.org, "more people lost benefits last year because they couldn’t or wouldn’t follow through on getting a drug test than those who took the test and turned up positive — people who simply go without benefits or any other support. And many states haven’t increased budgets for treatment programs for those who do test positive."
Champion your cause, Social Liberals. It's time to have a real debate.