Drug Testing For The Unemployed?

Should the unemployed be drug tested? One state senator says drug testing is a way to make sure unemployment benefits go to people who deserve them, but the bottom line is money. State Senator Dave Thomas says too many people are abusing the system by abusing drugs. He wants unemployed people applying for benefits to be randomly drug tested. Sen. Thomas says, “The stick is if you don’t do something about it, don’t expect to be getting a free lunch from the state.” As part of an overhaul of the state Employment Security Commission, Thomas proposed an amendment that would allow an initial test to see if ten percent of jobless people seeking benefits test positive for drugs. If that’s the case, there would be random drug tests every month for the unemployed. Thomas says those who test positive would be given several chances before they are stripped of their benefits. He says, “We want to help them, so if we can identify over a period while receiving benefits, you do have a problem, let’s deal with it. Let’s do something about it. We’re not taking benefits away until you can get to a program and try to clean yourself up.” The initial test is estimated to cost taxpayers $15,000. Thomas says there would be savings, though, because some of the unemployed would not go through a rehab program to clean themselves up, and therefore, they would not be eligible for benefits. Senator John Scott questions the legality and the cost of drug testing. He says, “You got three sets of burdens, the cost of testing, the time the person must spend and if that person is referred, they have to pay out of pocket, and DAODAS (department of alcohol and other drug abuse services) has to hire more staff to cover the caseload.” Senator Thomas dropped his amendment today because he needs to re-word it, but he says he plans to introduce it again on Tuesday.