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LePage: Random Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients


Republican Gov. Paul LePage of Maine said he supports a local plan that would tie welfare benefits to drug testing. But the town officials who proposed it want to give themselves more time to determine if such a plan would be legal.

In the town of Madawaska, where the population is approximately 4,000 people and the total number of people on welfare is only 45, officials want to require random drug testing to receive benefits, reported The Associated Press.

Handicapped people would be subject to drug testing, too.

"Just because you are not able-bodied [doesn't mean] you get a free pass," Madawaska town manager Ryan Pelletier said.

Under the current proposal, "you get put in a pool like anyone else, and if you're drawn to be tested you're drawn to be tested,” he added.

Madawaska currently pays $16,000 per year in benefits to the 45 recipients. And LePage said more restrictions would be “fiscally responsible,” reported the AP.

“Ensuring our welfare programs are helping those who are truly needy and willing to work toward economic stability is important," LePage said.

However, tying welfare benefits to drug tests is a controversial idea that has constitutional problems.

In 2014, a federal court struck down Florida's requirement that welfare recipients pass drug tests to receive benefits. In the ruling, the court said that the drug test was considered an unreasonable search because the state didn't prove that there was a “substantial need” to test welfare recipients.

“The state has not demonstrated a more prevalent, unique or different drug problem among [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] applicants than in the general population,” the court wrote, according to The New York Times.

And for now, Madawaska officials are going to table the proposal until they figure out the legality of it.

"We just feel that it's an appropriate venue to continue the public policy discussion about drug testing for general assistance applicants, but really take our time in doing that so we're not in a hurry,” Pelletier said, according to WAGM. “We're going to take some time and we're going to come back in August at their next board meeting with a recommendation.”

Sources: Associated Press via Sun Journal, The New York Times, WAGM / Photo credit: Maine Department of Education/Flickr

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