Two bills being considered in the Michigan Legislature would require welfare recipients to be drug tested and children to attend a certain number of school days in order to receive benefits.
One bill, recently re-introduced in the House of Representatives, would initiate a suspicion-based substance abuse testing program for welfare recipients in Michigan’s Family Independence Program.
Rep. Jeff Farrington, R-Utica, first introduced the drug-testing bill after he said his constituents were concerned with state aid and taxpayer dollars being used to purchase illegal narcotics.
Central Michigan University College Republicans Vice Chair Jon Bloomberg expressed similar concerns, saying it is improper for drugs to be purchased with welfare dollars.
“If people can’t pass a drug test, it shows they are getting drugs,” Bloomberg said. “If people can’t pass a drug test, they don’t have a right to welfare.”
Several campus leaders have questioned the proposals, including Student Government Association President Marie Reimers, who said the bill was an infringement upon basic human rights.
“I believe access to food, shelter and safety is a basic human right, regardless of the circumstance,” the Saginaw junior said.
Both Reimers and CMU College Democrats Vice President and Comstock Park sophomore Taylor Gehrcke said the bill is costly and ineffective. They both drew parallels to a similar bill Florida enacted in 2011.
Florida analysts predicted the drug-testing program would cost $178 million in the fiscal year. However, only two percent of those examined by the program yielded positive test results. In total, the state received approximately $60,000 in returns from those who tested positive, thus resulting in a massive program deficit.
Another bill currently in committee would require some families to ensure their children attend a certain number of school days in order to gain welfare benefits or else risk losing welfare benefits.
This bill, which has yet to be voted upon in committee, would end family welfare benefits if a child under the age of 16 is unable to meet certain school attendance requirements. The Department of Human Services enacted this policy in October 2012, but the bill would incorporate the policy into law, ensuring its continuation in future administrations.
Gehrcke said the bill goes too far.
“Parents can only highly encourage the children to go to school; at older ages, how can the parents ensure their kids are attending school?” Gehrcke said. “But even more importantly, with many cuts occurring across the board in Michigan, where adequate transportation is not provided, it is not fair for the individual to be penalized because of a lack of transportation to school.”
As it stands, the Michigan League for Public Policy estimates the typical family of three receives $492 in state-provided cash assistance.