The Trump administration is reportedly considering a plan that would allow states to force food stamp recipients to undergo drug testing. That is even after evidence from previous tests already prove it is only expensive yet ineffective.
The proposal, which is based on the common stereotype that people with low-income are most likely to use drugs, is yet another move by Trump’s administration to keep federal programs that help the poor within limits.
Last week, Trump signed an executive order that would allow states to restrict access to public assistance programs and would affect about 5 percent of participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps.
Welfare advocates think that it is rather unnecessary, cumbersome, and disparaging. The policy, however, has received support from GOP governors who claim that the more a state controls implementation of federal programs, the more money is saved and fewer people would become dependent.
In 2016, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, together with ten other GOP governors, requested to implement drug testing to applicants for food assistance. It pushed through even though a judge dismissed the lawsuit.
Moreover, in 2014, only 1 percent turned out to be positive for drugs in Tenessee where Republicans implemented drug testing for those who applied for welfare benefits. In Utah, merely 12 public assistance applicants out of 466 tested positive for drugs from 2012 to 2013.
States such as Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, and Utah also implemented drug testing to welfare benefit applicants. All of those had similar results — expensive programs with very few people who were tested positive.
Ed Bolen, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities think tank, said that forcing those with low-income to undergo drug testing to receive benefits will have consequences for marginalized populations.
“Are people losing their food assistance if they don’t take the test, and in that case, is that a condition of eligibility, which the states aren’t allowed to impose?” Bolen said. “And does drug testing fall into what’s allowable under a state training and employment program, which typically lists things like job search or education or on-the-job experience? This is kind of a different bucket.”
Legislators from at least 15 states have already passed the bill that requires drug testing applicants for welfare benefits. Such states are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. All of these have Republican legislative majorities.
This year, the similar policy has been introduced to states including Illinois, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia.