Mandatory Drug Testing for People on Welfare - Essay Example

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The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 gave states the authority to drug test individuals who were receiving welfare benefits. It did not, however, create legislation that made such tests mandatory. …
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Mandatory Drug Testing for People on Welfare
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Mandatory Drug Testing for People on Welfare
I. Summary
The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 gave states the authority to drug test individuals who were receiving welfare benefits (ACLU, 2008). It did not, however, create legislation that made such tests mandatory. The debate has been raised as to whether or not mandatory drug testing is appropriate before supplying taxpayer-furnished welfare benefits to ensure the money is being well-spent and will not be exhausted on drug purchases.
II. The Issue of Disadvantages
Here, the debate will argue two distinct disadvantages to mandatory drug testing. There runs the possibility of receiving what is referred to as “false positives” when being tested for a variety of drugs. A study conducted in the 1990s with a sample group of single, welfare receiving mothers identified that 11.8 percent of individuals with no current drug dependency had false positive reports (Pollack, Danzinger, Jayakody & Seefeldt, 2001). Individuals, then, who are currently not taking drugs might lose important benefits due to these testing errors.
There are also significant costs of undertaking drug testing, including materials, labor, and other administrative expenses. The state of Utah calculated that in order for the system to test each and every welfare recipient only once, it would cost $255,080 (ACLU, 2010). The Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates a much higher cost of $3.4 million annually (Children’s Action Alliance, 2002). These are funds that come from taxpayers that could be spent on other programs with more guaranteed outcomes of success.
III. The Advantages
Research has shown that people who are addicted to drugs often have relapses even when they are trying to recover (Children’s Action Alliance). Therefore, individuals who are making legitimate efforts to curb this addiction to ensure better quality of life for their struggling children could be cut off because they experienced a one-time relapse and achieved a true positive on their drug test results.
Cost to the taxpayers is yet another advantage of performing mandatory drug testing. For only one assistance program in a single state (Utah), referred to as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), there are 6,500 recipients receiving $498 per month (Thalman, 2009). For this single program alone, it represents $3,237,000 each year. By identifying those who have drug dependencies, these high costs for all combined welfare programs can be significantly reduced. It has been shown that approximately 11 percent of those tested achieved true positives on similar drug testing. Using these figures, it would reduce the cost burden by approximately $400,000 annually if the statistically-supported 11 percent were identified in pre-welfare distribution screening.
IV. Conclusion
The debate will discuss both sides of the arguments and then formulate an appropriate conclusion as to whether or not the mandatory drug testing is positive or negative. Based on the data offered throughout the debate, the receiving audience will be coerced to believe one side or the other based on the best supporting literature on the subject.
ACLU. (2010). “Issue Brief: Drug Testing of TANF Recipients”, American Civil Liberties
Union. Retrieved November 7, 2011 from
ACLU. (2008). “Drug Testing of Public Assistance Recipients as a Condition of Eligibility”,
American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved November 7, 2011 from
Children’s Action Alliance. (2008). “House Bill 2678 – Drug Testing of Temporary
Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Recipients”. Retrieved November 7, 2011 from
Pollack, H., Danziger, S., Jayakody, R. & Seefeldt, K. (2001). “Drug Testing Welfare
Recipients – False Positives, False Negatives, Unanticipated Opportunities”. Retrieved
November 7, 2011 from
Thalman, James. (2009). “Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients?”, Deseret News, Utah.
Retrieved November 6, 2011 from Read More
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