Don’t Require Welfare Recipients to Pay for Their Own Mandatory Drug Tests

drug screen

Target: North Dakota state legislature

Goal: Stop requiring welfare applicants to pay for their own drug testing before receiving assistance.

Republican lawmakers in North Dakota recently proposed a bill that would require residents applying for welfare to undergo a mandatory drug test before receiving government assistance. Furthermore, applicants would be required to pay for their own tests, which can cost up to 100 dollars. Representative Dennis Johnson believes that the bill would provide “a needed incentive for people to keep clean from drug use.” Other states that have enacted drug-testing requirements made claims similar to Johnson’s: it would help prevent welfare fraud, foster “greater personal responsibility,” and save money. All of these claims, however, have been disproven. The social workers’ caseloads have not decreased, the testing actually costs the state more money, and the number of people who tested positive for drugs is miniscule (with most of them only testing positive for marijuana use). What the bill would do, however, is make it even more difficult for people in need to receive assistance.

The most obvious prohibitive factor is that the applicant must pay for the drug test. This mandate prompts the question, “If someone who does not have enough money to pay rent and buy food—thereby requiring government assistance—where would they find enough money to pay for a drug test?” The bill would also require the drug testing to take place only at state-approved facilities, placing further burden on disabled residents and rural communities. Poor people in these populations simply do not have means to access reliable transportation. The testing requirement could further delay the assistance for needy families whose daily reality includes facing hunger and possible homelessness.

Legislators who proposed this bill have feigned concern over the health and wellbeing of welfare recipients and taxpayers’ money. In reality, however, the proposal is steeped in the bigoted image of “welfare queens” and the stereotype that recipients—or all poor people for that matter—are lazy, drug-addicted lowlifes. This is simply not the case. Sign the petition below to tell North Dakota state legislators that this bill is discriminatory and ineffective.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear members of the North Dakota legislature,

The recent proposal to institute mandatory drug testing for welfare applicants in North Dakota is, frankly, discriminatory and ineffective. Legislators who proposed this bill have feigned concern over the health and wellbeing of welfare recipients and taxpayers’ money. In reality, however, the proposal is steeped in the bigoted image of “welfare queens” and the stereotype that recipients—or all poor people for that matter—are lazy, drug-addicted lowlifes. This is simply not the case.

The bill would also place further burden on disabled residents and rural communities. Poor people in these populations simply do not have means to access reliable transportation. The testing requirement could further delay the assistance for needy families whose daily reality includes facing hunger and possible homelessness.

Furthermore, laws such as this simply do not work. Similar mandates, enacted on the claims that it would help prevent welfare fraud, foster “greater personal responsibility,” and save money, have all failed. The social workers’ caseloads have not decreased, the testing actually costs the state more money, and the number of people who tested positive for drugs is miniscule.

As representatives, your concern should be focused on actually helping your constituents in impoverished communities, not making life more difficult or shaming them for needing help. Your time would be better spent by trying to reach the poor who have fallen through the cracks of the system or by instituting programs to help drug-addicted residents. We demand that you do not pass this bill.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Francis Storr via Flickr

Sign the Petition

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One Comment

  1. How can these poor, unemployed citizens be expected to pay for these tests?

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58 Signatures

  • James Thrailkill
  • Eric von Borstel
  • Hermann Kastner
  • Mal Gaff
  • Terrie Phenicie
  • Terrie Phenicie
  • Marianne Oelman
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