Politics

New Ohio Bill Would Drug Screen Welfare Applicants

| by Nathaly Pesantez

A new bill introduced in the Ohio state legislature on Aug. 12 aims to run drug tests on welfare applicants.

Under the proposal, adults applying for cash assistance would need to fill out a questionnaire or complete a screening to determine their likelihood of drug abuse. A drug test would then be administered to those who were revealed as more likely to abuse drugs. If the drug test results yield a positive indication of drugs, applicants would not be allowed to receive benefits for six months, according to Cleaveland.com

Applicants who test positive could arrange for benefits to be awarded to their children or spouses through a third party.

The proposal, sponsored by Republican Reps. Ron Maag and Tim Schaffer, will establish a two-year pilot program in three undetermined counties. It would also appropriate $100,000 for drug abuse treatment.

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"This legislation will lift families out of drug-induced poverty that they're suffering from right now and hopefully we can break that cycle of drug-induced poverty," Schaffer said on Aug. 11. "This legislation is not a means to deny benefits but rather a means to identify and help those families in need."

Maag said the bill would protect taxpayers by making sure that their money does not support drug habits.

"Right now, if someone is addicted to drugs, they may be getting the money," Maag said, the Associated Press reported. "They might be giving it to the drug dealer and their family is still suffering. This is to take care of the families and to get help for the person who is addicted to drugs."

Tonya Dixson, a former heroin addict from Price Hill who has received welfare benefits for 10 years, is in favor of the measure.

"I think they should do that," Dixon told WXIX. "A lot of these parents are out here feeding their kids one pack of noodles a day when they've got $600 in food stamps, and it's all going in their arms."

But Lisa Wurm from the ACLU disagrees with the bill.

"This is a punitive approach," Wurm said. "This deprives people of public benefits."

The Ohio Poverty Law Center's Linda Cook says the bill unfairly targets Ohio's most vulnerable.

"By setting up barriers, which is what this is, (you) keep people from getting the help they need and they fall further into poverty," Cook said.

More than 94,000 children are part of Ohio's cash benefit program, Ohio Works First. The program also includes more than 15,000 adults, according to AP.

At leas 13 states have enacted some form of drug testing or screening legislation for those applying or receiving welfare benefits.

Sources: WXIXCleveland.com, ABC News (AP) / Photo credit: Ohio House of Representatives