Politics

Wisconsin May Seek To Extend Drug Testing Program To Food Stamps

| by Nicholas Roberts
Storefront with Food Stamps signStorefront with Food Stamps sign

In November, Wisconsin began requiring those applying for welfare to undergo drug testing.  The new law which put this policy into effect could potentially be extended to other types of government assistance, specifically Wisconsin's Foodshare program.

Wisconsin's Foodshare program is funded by the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, known as SNAP.  Similar laws have been passed in Georgia and Florida which applied to those receiving SNAP benefits, although the laws passed in both of those states were ruled to be unconstitutional.

The Clarion reports that Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker proposed a bill earlier this year, contained within the 2015-2017 state budget, which requires an extensive questionnaire about drug use history to be completed by any potential applicant for government assistance. Wisconsin District Attorney Brad Schimmel sued the federal government two days after the budget was signed, and requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture allow the state to drug test SNAP applicants and recipients.

As The Clarion points out, the USDA has cited federal law prohibiting states from imposing additional eligibility requirements onto SNAP applicants and recipients.

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U.S. Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack said in July in response to the lawsuit that “Gov. Walker hasn’t read the law. It’s always a good idea before you start litigation to understand what the law is.”

Wisconsin's Foodshare program has already been made more stringent due to a state law passed earlier in 2015. The Badger Herald reports that the law requires healthy, childless adults to either work at least 80 hours a month, enroll in an employment training program or do some kind of combination of both to maintain benefits from the Foodshare program. 
 
Around 15,000 people have lost access to the program so far, and The Badger Herald reports that the state has seen a rising number of people attending food pantries as a result.

The Clarion reports that adding drug testing to the work requirement for food stamps seems redundant to some people, as many employers already require it as a condition of hiring and the Foodshare program already has a job-seeking requirement in effect. Others are concerned that any potential expansion of drug testing programs will stop people who are genuinely in need from applying.  

One student told the Clarion, “People on Facebook are talking about it … that people who are on welfare or food stamps are just lazy … people who know they might test positive won’t even try. I don’t think this law will do anything to help the people who actually need it … it targets poor people who are already struggling.” 

Sources: The Badger HeraldThe Huffington PostThe Clarion / Photo credit: Clementine Gallot/Flickr