New legislation has been introduced in the United States Congress that would allow states to drug test those seeking unemployment benefits. This new bill comes on the heels of legislation passed in March that reversed Obama-era Department of Labor rules that prohibited drug testing.
The Ensuring Quality in the Unemployment Insurance Program (EQUIP) Act was introduced by Georgia Congressman Earl Carter in July, and would allow states to require anyone receiving unemployment benefits to take a substance abuse risk assessment. The assessment would screen applicants to determine if an individual is at high risk for substance abuse. Those determined to be a higher risk for drug abuse would have to submit to a drug screening before receiving unemployment benefits.
Before the Obama Administration initiated the prohibition through the Department of Labor at the very end of President Obama’s term, a few states, like Florida and Wisconsin, had begun requiring those seeking government benefits, like welfare and unemployment, to pass a drug test before being eligible. The desire of lawmakers in these few states is to prevent people receiving these government benefits from using them on illegal drugs. A few lawmakers even stated they believe that people on government benefits use illegal drugs at a higher rate than those not on government benefits.
Of those states, like Florida, that have implemented such restrictions in the past, they have found very small numbers (under 3%) of claimants failing drug testing.