State approves welfare drug tests
LANSING — Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation that creates a drug-testing program for adult welfare recipients who are suspected of using drugs.
The Republican-backed proposals, House Bill 4118 and Senate Bill 275, were among several bills approved by Snyder last Friday. The one-year pilot program will be implemented in three counties that have not yet been determined.
Under the program, welfare recipients or applicants suspected of drug use will be required to take a substance-abuse test. Refusal to take the test will result in being ineligible for benefits for six months.
A positive drug test would lead to referrals to treatment programs. If an individual refuses to participate in the program or fails to submit to periodic substance-abuse testing required under the program, their assistance will be terminated. Benefits can be restored after a person passes a substance-abuse test.
"We want to remove the barriers that are keeping people from getting good jobs, supporting their families and living independently," Snyder said. "This pilot program is intended to help ensure recipients get the wrap-around services they need to overcome drug addiction and lead successful lives. We'll then have opportunity to assess effectiveness and outcomes."
Michigan has roughly 80,000 welfare recipients, 21,000 of them adults age 18 and older who could be subject to drug testing, depending on which counties are selected for the pilot.
The pilot program must be completed by Sept. 30, 2016.
Opponents of the legislation, including the Michigan League for Public Policy, have said similar programs in other states haven't saved taxpayers money. The non-partisan Senate Fiscal Agency estimated a statewide program would cost roughly $700,000 to $3.4 million, while potentially saving $370,000 to $3.7 million in caseload reductions.
The American Civil Liberties Union has said the program would promote ugly stereotypes of poor people and discriminate against a group that doesn't use drugs at a rate significantly higher than the general population.
"We give out tax credits to schools. We give out tax credits to students. We give out tax credits to police and fire," Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield, said earlier this year on the Senate floor. "And yet, the only (group) that we are now saying is subject to drug screening are the poor — the poorest of the poor."