Society

Welfare Drug Testing in MI Yields No Positive Results

| by Nik Bonopartis
An antiquated food stamp.An antiquated food stamp.

In 2014, when Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed a bill mandating drug tests for welfare applicants, he seemed confident the tests would reveal drug abuse among the poor.

Anyone who tested positive under the new program would be referred to drug treatment programs. Anyone who refused to go into drug treatment or failed to comply with subsequent drug tests would have their welfare benefits denied or discontinued, according to the Detroit Free Press.

"We want to remove the barriers that are keeping people from getting good jobs, supporting their families and living independently," Snyder said at the time. "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."

The drug testing began in October 2015 as a year-long pilot program in three Michigan counties, The Guardian reports. Now that the program's been in place for almost nine months, news outlets asked Michigan state officials how many applicants tested positive for illegal drugs.

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Not one, according to the state.

Out of the 303 applicants in those counties, not a single person seeking welfare assistance tested positive. Snyder didn't take the opportunity to comment when asked what he thought about the results.

"The governor will wait until the pilot program has concluded and the report is delivered, as required by the legislation, to reach any conclusions," Snyder’s spokeswoman, Anna Heaton, told The Guardian.

The results in Michigan reportedly mirror those from other states, although several of those states implemented drug testing on a much larger scale. In Tennessee, only 65 of almost 40,000 applicants for a cash assistance program tested positive for drugs, while a $1.3 million testing program in Missouri has yielded only 48 positive tests from almost 39,000 applicants.

In Mississippi, which is also running a limited pilot program like Michigan, only two out of 3,656 applicants who were screened for drug use tested positive, according to ThinkProgress.

Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin tried to draw attention to the welfare drug tests by introducing a federal bill that would require taxpayers claiming more than $150,000 in itemized deductions to take a drug test, The Guardian reports. Under the bill, which has not been passed, taxpayers would receive "significantly lower" deductions if they fail or refuse drug tests.

Eric Harris, Moore's communications director, told The Guardian that drug abuse "knows no economic or social distinctions," and the bill was intended to highlight that fact.

“As we’ve seen time and time again,” Harris said, “these misguided policies are devoid of any scientific credibility and have proven to be a colossal waste of our time and money.”

Sources: Detroit Free PressThe Guardian, ThinkProgress / Photo Credit: Pengrin/Flickr

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