Ohio proposal seeks to drug test welfare applicants

FOX19 - Ohio would screen and test welfare applicants for drugs under a bill expected to be introduced.

The proposal from Republican Reps. Ron Maag of Leanon and Tim Schaffer. It would create a two-year pilot program in three counties that have yet to be determined.

Adults applying for cash assistance would have to complete a screening. If that shows they likely abuse drugs, they'd need to take a drug test. If they test positive, then they couldn't receive the cash benefit card.

"I know a lot of people take these cards and they sell them 50 cents on the dollar," said Maag.

Tonya Dixson of Price Hill, a former addict and a welfare recipient for 10 years agrees with the testing. She said she has seen drug dealers in nice cars come into her neighborhood getting EBT cards meant for children.

"I think they should do that," Dixson said.  "A lot of these parents are feeding their kids one pack on noodles a day when they got $600 dollars in food stamps," she continued.

After a failed test, a third party could accept the payment on behalf of the children and dependents. The bill was introduced Wednesday. Its sponsors say it ensures taxpayer money isn't supporting drug habits.

In Ohio, over 94,000 children receive the cash benefits along with more than 15,000 adults.

A family of three gets $473 dollars in cash assistance per month.

But is the drug testing worth it? 13 states have similar programs.

In Utah in 2013, 4700 people were tested, but only 12 tested positive.

It cost roughly $30,000 dollars but, 350,000 was saved because some applicants did not follow through with the benefits program due to the drug testing.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio opposes the measure, saying it unfairly targets the poor.

"This is a punitive approach this deprives people of benefits that desperately need those benefits," said Lisa Wurm with the ACLU.

"By setting up barriers, which is what this is, [you] keep people from getting the help they need and they fall further into poverty," said Linda Cook with the Ohio Poverty Law Center.

Copyright 2015 WXIX. All rights reserved.