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Welfare drug test requirement likely to be challenged

Posted April 23, 2013

— Even though a bill calling for some welfare applicants to pass a drug test before receiving benefits still has to go through the House, advocates for the poor are already gearing up to challenge the idea in court.

The measure, which passed the Senate Monday night, would require those seeking Work First benefits to pay for the drug tests. If the tests are negative, applicants would be reimbursed for the tests; if they test positive, they would be ineligible for benefits.

"Receiving cash assistance is not a basis for a violation of the Fourth Amendment," Tazra Mitchell, a public policy fellow for the left-leaning North Carolina Budget & Tax Center, said Tuesday.

Mitchell said the proposal is unconstitutional, noting courts invalidated a similar plan in Michigan.

"We're going to let the judge decide whether it's unconstitutional or not. I don't know that," said bill sponsor Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon. "I know this is a problem, and unless we get serious about addressing it, it's never, never going to get better."

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union called the bill "cruel, costly and blatantly unconstitutional."

"If a citizen truly has a substance abuse problem and needs help, the state should help to get that person into treatment, not simply kick them and their children off of crucial support services," Sarah Preston, policy director for the ACLU, said in a statement.

Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon Lawmaker says upfront tests lead to drug-free homes

Mitchell noted that the legislation doesn't ensure that people who test positive receive any drug treatment, while current state law requires drug treatment as a condition of receiving Work First benefits.

Still, Davis said, requiring an upfront drug test would "help children grow up in a drug-free home."

"We think it's going to be discouraging to those people who know they're going to test positive to not apply for those benefits because they don't want to lose the money," he said. "You have to have some skin in the game."

Mitchell said most of the people affected by the proposal don't have the "skin" to pay the $100 fee for the drug test.

One man who recently enrolled in Work First told WRAL News that he doesn't mind taking a drug test, but the upfront cost would prevent him from taking part in the program, which supports him and his two daughters.

Almost 24,000 people in North Carolina are enrolled in Work First, which provides cash payments to people looking for jobs that targets the parents of young children. The state could be liable for up to $2.4 million in reimbursements for negative tests.

123 Comments

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  • RadiantBeauties-NC Apr 27, 7:18 p.m.

    Basically this is WAR on the POOR! Photo Id's for voiting NOW a bill to pay for your own drug test if you want state funded serices! Here's the deal. Every politican should be TESTED in order to Keep their JOBS. I am pretty sure that most of the politicans would object to this simply becuase they themselves are drug additcts or jusy maybe "little" Johnny is a crackhead or meth user.... These people NEVER cease to amaze with their selfish, unethical, or manipulative policies. The country is Broken and in finacial ruins NOT because of POOR people But from Poor Managment of Funds by the very Same people who Make the Laws that WE are FORCED to adhere....

  • lawdawg302 Apr 25, 11:18 p.m.

    Goldenosprey,

    How about, I make you a deal. I want to avoid violating anyone's rights. If the state and federal government will agree to stop stealing my money and giving it to people who have done nothing to earn it, I will stop asking people to be drug tested before receiving their ill gotten gains. The solution to this problem is obvious, end the programs; and no one has to be tested.

  • goldenosprey Apr 25, 9:15 a.m.

    "Violates the 4th amendment!!! To ask that people keep themselves free of drugs to qualify for free money?!!! beloathedsparrow

    By your logic, any senior who eventually receives more $ in SS benefits or medicare than they paid in, which is most of them, should have to fill a cup for uncle Sam. Or anyone who takes a mortgage interest deduction on their taxes, etc.

  • thefuture20 Apr 25, 9:01 a.m.

    Not all people that recieve this are beating the system or being lazy. For those who take full advantage of this makes it hard for the ones that truely need.However, I do agree with drug testing and random test.I feel the can find a different solution to paying for it up front. The nation is still on hard times. Maybe look at the public health departments for the testing.

  • belovedsparrow Apr 25, 8:39 a.m.

    Violates the 4th amendment!!! To ask that people keep themselves free of drugs to qualify for free money?!!!

    Since these people are not being forced to be on welfare by the our country then they are not forced to get the test. This only stipulates that to get that benefit that they meet certain requirements (remaining free of illegal drugs). Keeps the crackheads from getting our free money (tax payer provided) to keep right on buying crack.

  • uBnice Apr 25, 8:13 a.m.

    @rbshort: Yes, there is great resistance to this. The politicians, particularly the Republicans, absolutely, unequivocally refuse to be drug tested even though they are paid by taxpayers (receiving assistance from taxpayers).

  • rbshort Apr 25, 6:49 a.m.

    Must pass a drug test to get a real job, yet there is resistance to this?

  • chuckhnelson Apr 24, 6:10 p.m.

    "we hold onto one of your Obamaphones as collateral"-querty27807

    The cell phone part of Lifeline Assistance was passed at the end of the Bush administration, several months before Obama was inaugurated. The program was started in 1985, while Ronald Reagan was president.

  • patrick85ed Apr 24, 5:08 p.m.

    This should be MANDATORY for all people recieving assistance from the Government.

  • Spock Apr 24, 4:31 p.m.

    We need to encourage our representatives to eliminate this program and subsequently end all of the bickering... time to move on to more important business.

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