Drug Testing for Unemployment Benefits?

Should the unemployed be required to take blood tests to receive benefits? According to a recent piece in the Los Angeles Times, such a requirement was proposed by Rep. Jack Kingston.

Although no drug test would be required upfront, applicants would be assessed for risk, if such a law is passed. In the process, an applicant would fill out a screening questionnaire from the National Institutes of Health to determine if he or she has a higher probability of taking drugs. If so, he or she would then need to submit to and pass a drug test in order to receive benefits. Existing laws, however, prevent drug tests from being required in the initial application.

An employer in Kingston’s Georgia district apparently found half that half of its applicants could not pass a drug test. Screening would, then, prevent federal funds from going toward a drug habit. Kingston said:

“Drug screening as a condition of unemployment benefits safeguards valuable taxpayer dollars by ensuring job seekers are at their competitive best for re-employment and helps to reduce the nation’s debt by not using federal resources to enable an individual’s drug dependency.”

Yet, considering employers are requesting the unemployed not apply, such a measure would make the process of losing a job and getting back on one’s feet even harder. Against the proposal, Rep. George Miller of California stated:

“This is just another attempt to demonize the unemployed, most of whom have no job for no fault of their own. Why doesn’t he propose to drug test executives at Wall Street banks? It was their actions that have been documented to have directly contributed to the recession and high unemployment rate in the first place.”

Should drug screening be required to obtain unemployment benefits, or is Congress out of touch?