Politics

Illinois State Representative Proposes Drug Testing, Work Requirements For Public Assistance Recipients

| by Jared Keever
Bill Mitchell, News ConferenceBill Mitchell, News Conference

The state of Illinois is set to consider drug testing and work requirements for recipients of public assistance. 

Illinois state Rep. Bill Mitchell, a Republican, has introduced a number of bills that are designed to cut down on what he says is fraud and waste in the system, WCIA News reports. 

Mitchell would like to see mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients, and work requirements for those who receive food stamps. He told those gathered at a press conference on the morning of Nov. 5 that his proposals could save the state thousands of dollars. 

"Now we have one [in] three Illinoisans on a program, and we're not fully funding education,” he said. “Our priorities are out of whack folks that's what I'm saying. We need to go back to Springfield and we go back next week. Let's change the way we're doing things.”

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On Mitchell’s website, he also proposes adding microchips to the state’s LINK cards  — the cards with which people spend their benefits — and requiring photo ID for their use. Doing so would cut down on fraud, he said. 

Mitchell added that his changes would protect the so-called safety net for those who really need it. 

“Welfare should not be a way of life, nor should it be generational,” he said, according to his website. “Big government has institutionalized poverty by massively expanding the welfare state, which is cruel to the people it entraps and further disincentivizes work. We need to protect the safety net for those who have fallen on hard times while at the same time emphasizing personal responsibility and the values that made our country great – an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.”

Mitchell’s proposals surface just as Ohio begins to deliberate on similar reforms.

Two Republican lawmakers in that state have also proposed a law that would require welfare recipients to pass a drug screening, The Columbus Dispatch reports.

On Nov. 3, An Ohio House committee opened hearings on the welfare drug testing bill.

“We want [public assistance] to go where it’s supposed to go, not to the drug dealer down the street,” Rep. Ron Maag, one of the sponsors of the bill, said recently. 

At least 13 states across the country have some form of drug screening in place for recipients of public assistance, according to WCIA.

Earlier this year, ThinkProgress reported that in seven of those states the rate of positive drug tests among adult welfare recipients was actually lower than the national drug use rate of 9.4 percent.

The study analyzed  state data from Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah. The rate of of positive tests to total welfare recipients in those states ranged from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, with all but one having rates lower than 1 percent.

Those states collectively spent over $1 million testing welfare recipients.

Sources: WCIA NewsIllinois State Rep. Bill MitchellThe Columbus DispatchThinkProgress

Photo credit: Illinois State Rep. Bill Mitchell, Micah Baldwin/Flickr