There is an ongoing debate over whether or not welfare recipients should be drug tested to receive the benefits. Both sides of the argument have merit. Those who oppose the idea of drug testing say that it is unconstitutional and violates the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, they claim that this law stereotypes and discriminates against those from low socioeconomic demographics, implying that because they are poor, they must be drug addicts. However, those who support the law note that its intended purpose is to ensure that taxpayer money is not being squandered on people who only plan to abuse this assistance. Only nine states so far have instituted drug testing of candidates for welfare assistance. This drug testing has proven to be prohibitively expensive in many cases. Consequently, some states only test subjects with whom they find suspicion, or who have admitted to past drug use. Though proposed drug testing of welfare applicants initially appears to be a good idea to eliminate potential abusers of the system from receiving assistance, it appears that even more money may be wasted on the testing process, which negates the savings that are the primary objective of the law.
Welfare assistance itself is provided from monies managed by a federally funded program that provides health care, food stamps, child care assistance, unemployment benefits, cash aid, and housing to citizens in need. It is categorized the governmental umbrella of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). According to Welfare Information, eligibility is determined by net income, family size, and any crisis situation such as: pregnancy, homelessness, or unemployment (2014). TANF also requires the recipient to obtain employment within two years of receiving benefits (2014). A majority of the monies that support welfare come from taxes paid by working class citizens and donations from large private companies.
In addition to the requirement for employment as a condition for a continuance of benefits, “states have proposed drug testing of applicants and recipients of public welfare benefits since federal welfare reform in 1996” (Finzel, 2014). While some states test recipients based upon suspicion of drug use, others choose to test all applicants.
In 1999, Michigan was the first state to implement a suspicionless drug testing policy as a condition for receiving welfare benefits. A district court struck down the policy on the Fourth Amendment grounds, and the Sixth Circuit court ultimately divided, upholding the district court’s injunction and putting a temporary stop to the policy. However, the constitutional issues remain undecided. (Goetzl, 2013, p. 1539)
Currently, politicians from twenty-four states have proposed legislation to institute drug testing as a condition for welfare determination, but only nine have formally approved it. Those states are: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah (Finzel, 2014)....