The debate over providing welfare benefits to individuals on the lower end of the economic scale has often been marked by heated rhetoric on both sides. Liberals have focused on the humanitarian aspects of providing money to those who struggle financially. In contrast, conservatives claim that some recipients should not be allowed to obtain such money due to a tendency to use such money to abuse drugs.
Different states have different rules in place when it comes to eligibility, with the state of Michigan taking steps to address what some perceive as a waste of money. The Family Independence program that was already in place is specifically designed to help pay for basic items. This includes things like food, living arrangements and things like electricity and water for both families with children and women who are pregnant.
The state has sustained numerous economic blows over the past few decades, which has resulted in an increase in the providing of those welfare benefits. In 2013, that accounted for 122,495 residents being helped, of which 71 percent (87,000) are children.
To combat what they consider to be abuse of the system, Republicans in the state’s legislature were able to pass legislation that set up a pilot program to test for drug use among welfare recipients. After passing in December 2014, it was signed by the state’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder.
In the 18 months since instituting the program, 303 people have been tested for the presence of any illegal drugs. The results have shown that none of those 303 people were found to have any trace of drugs in their system.
Despite the lack of any evidence of drug use by welfare recipients, Snyder is declining to comment on whether the program will continue past the scheduled ending date of September 30.
A few months before these results were given, a number of other state legislatures had already undertaken similar approaches. A total of at least 17 states had proposals under discussion, despite the fact that states like Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee were found to have very much the same results as Michigan.
One particular state, West Virginia, began their own pilot program this past March. Set up to last three years, it allows a caseworker to assess whether an applicant is using drugs. If they believe that’s the case, the applicant will have to be tested. If that applicant refuses, they become immediately ineligible for any benefits.
Should the applicant be shown to be using illegal drugs, they’ll need to undergo treatment for substance abuse, receive counseling and attend a job skills program in order to receive benefits. If that individual is a parent, an investigation by child protective services will also commence.
One congresswoman, Democrat Gwen Moore from Wisconsin has expressed her disgust with this overall approach by introducing legislation in the House of Representatives. Entitled the “Top One Percent Accountability Act,” the proposed bill would require those making more than $150,000 a year and who receive tax subsidies to undergo drug tests before obtaining any money from the government.
Moore’s proposal was protest against what she believes is an embracing of stereotypes against the poor.