The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Wisconsin removes welfare drug test requirement

This year, 36 states may establish a requirement for those who want welfare: passing a government-issued drug test.

As of Monday, Wisconsin will take itself off that list. A provision included in an unemployment bill brought before the state legislature would have required a drug test for those receiving unemployment benefits, but the measure was removed by legislators.

In Wisconsin last year, more than $3.1 billion was spent in unemployment and welfare payments, according to The Cap Times, who also estimated that Wisconsin could have saved approximately $250 million had the provision been kept.

Laws have already passed in Arizona, Indiana and Missouri implementing the new requirement. In Florida, people receiving welfare are now required to pay for their own drug tests, resulting in the lowest welfare enrollment levels since the start of the recession.

Florida residents who do not pass the drug test are denied benefits up to one year, although payments for children of drug users may be administered to another stable relative, according to The New York Times.

The controversial laws have not only challenged possible welfare recipients, but may also impact government structures across the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which last month filed a lawsuit against the bill, argued that the requirement presents an unreasonable “search and seizure.”

The Wisconsin chapter of the union recently filed an appeal against the bill, according to The Cap Times.

Roberta Coles, professor and chair of social and cultural sciences at Marquette, said if recipients are denied welfare because of drug usage, non profit or private practices offering economic aid may be available, although the prospects are highly unlikely.

“Those programs would nowhere near provide the amount of money and stability that welfare supplies,” Coles said.

Matt Zern, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, said drug tests are necessary to prevent welfare participants from abusing the system.

“If people want welfare and want to gain from their government, then they should follow the laws it puts in place,” Zern said.

Supporters of the laws say the ultimate goal is to ensure hard-earned tax dollars are properly spent.

Emily May, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said the bill somewhat defeats the purpose of welfare and will not prove to be beneficial.

“If people have a drug issue that is a serious concern, that should be taken as a separate issue,” May said.

But Coles said many people on welfare are not taking drugs, and this new initiative is just another hurdle the poor must overcome.

Besides the drug test requirement for welfare, some states have taken the proposal even further. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, many states are issuing drug tests as a requirement for receiving other benefits, like food stamps and heating services.

Margaret Grace, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, said the drug test requirement could have negative effects.

“I think it is well-intentioned,” Grace said. “But I think that it may perpetuate the problems associated with poverty and possibly make them worse.”

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