CONGRESS LOOKS TO GIVE STATES DRUG TEST AUTHORITY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

By September 13, 2016 Blog

Congressman Kevin Brady (R) of Texas has introduced H.R. 5945 the “Ready to Work Act of 2016.” The legislation would amend title III of the Social Security Act to “allow States to drug test applicants for unemployment compensation to ensure they are ready to work.”

“This is a common-sense measure to ensure unemployed workers are ready and available to work,” Brady said in a statement. “If you are unable or unwilling to pass a basic drug test for a job that requires one, then you suffer, your family suffers and so do the businesses looking for good workers.”

Ten states already have laws on the books that allow drug testing for welfare recipients. Those states with drug testing programs have had mixed results. For example, a study of Florida’s program found that it disqualified very few benefits recipients for drug usage at considerable cost to the state. The Florida program was eventually struck down by the courts as a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s “unreasonable search and seizures” clause in 2013 — a ruling upheld in December.

President Obama signed a law in 2012 allowing drug testing for some applicants, but the Department of Labor has not yet implemented the law. Brady’s measure would basically force DOL’s hand. 

“The White House reneged on their responsibility to implement the law as Congress intended, throwing up roadblocks, delays and obstructive regulations for the past four years to guarantee states like Texas could not screen and test for drugs,” said Brady.

“In states that have done drug testing for other programs, they test a lot of people and find very few people, so it’s a lot of money and effort spent for very little gain,” Elizabeth Lower-Basch, director of income and worker supports for the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution“This is really solving a problem that doesn’t really exist. It’s really just part of this overall message that people who are poor people, who are unemployed, must have done something wrong or have made bad choices.”

The Ready to Work Act of 2016 would also allow states to design programs to help those who might be abusing drugs overcome their drug use history and find future work.

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