Drug Testing for Unemployment Benefits.
The issue of drug testing for unemployment benefits recently came under legislative review. Recently Congress used the Congressional Review Act to rescind an Obama-era regulation that added limits to which unemployment applicants could be drug tested. The legislation that was rescinded limited drug testing to candidates seeking employment for specific jobs (typically safety-sensitive jobs) that were subject to drug testing. President Trump is expected to sign the legislation. The rationale expressed by the Republicans who passed the legislation was that the previous Federal regulation was over-reaching, and that states should have the authority to choose who they drug test.
What was unspoken in any of the debate and coverage of this legislation is whether it makes any sense economically and logically to drug test applicants seeking unemployment benefits.
We checked in with Snopes, the fact-checking website, and found an analysis from 2015 that concluded… there is insufficient data to reach a conclusion. The Snopes analysis covered seven states, and included the number of applicants who were drug tested, the rate of positive tests for each state, and the cost per positive test. Here’s a quick look at the data.
- The costs varied widely, from $200 to $7,006 per positive test.
- The data was limited. One state had six years of data, and six states had two or fewer years of data.
- There was a lack of consistency in reporting costs. Most states seemed to ignore the personnel and administrative costs of their drug testing program, as well as the costs of administering the written screening tests many states used to select those applicants to drug test.
- States did not report the savings in benefits that were not paid to the applicants who tested positive. Based on publicly available information, the Snopes author observed that savings were negligible, although the data from states to document savings was scarce.
- Most states allow applicants whose benefits were denied because of a positive drug test to re-apply after completing a treatment program.
Our take on drug testing for unemployment benefits is that drug testing beneficiaries of welfare programs is a knee-jerk response to the stereotype of an unemployed person as lazy, getting high and living the good life while on the dole. While it is certainly galling when beneficiaries of tax payers’ dollars who fit this stereotype are exposed, we can think of other candidates who are equally suitable for drug testing. One thought is for legislators to demonstrate sobriety by passing a drug and alcohol test prior to every daily legislative session. That way we can be assured that they are in full grasp of their faculties when they create some of the legislation that makes us scratch our heads in wonder.