The Republican attack on low-income Americans has continued, this time in North Dakota. Following the lead of other states, North Dakota Republicans are attempting to pass a bill that would require welfare recipients to pay for and pass a drug test to receive welfare checks.
According to the Bismarck Tribune, Rep. Dennis Johnson (R-Devils Lake), Keith Kempenich, (R-Bowman) and other state Republicans are pushing for the bill to be passed because it "provides a needed incentive for people to keep clean from drug use." If the bill, HB 1385, passes the state legislature, it would require applicants of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to pay for the drug tests themselves before they can receive any assistance. The Tribune also notes that if an applicant fails a test, their assistance could be suspended for up to one year, and be suspended up to three years if a second test is failed.
Shari Doe, the director of Burleigh County Social Services, testified against HB 1385 earlier this week arguing that it puts an unfair burden on the poor and punishes those who are in a tough spot and who have never had any drug issues in the past. Seven states have passed similar laws to receive federal assistance, including the Sunshine State of Florida.
When Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law a bill that had similar requirements as the law proposed in North Dakota, the state lost tens of thousands of dollars after less than three percent of test takers failed. With an average cost of $35 per test, welfare recipients would be seeing a significant amount of money coming out of their already low check. While someone who does pass a test receives a refund, they often have to wait to see the money return.
There are those on welfare who abuse the system and take advantage of what is in place, but the overwhelming majority are just trying to get by, taking care of themselves and their families in the process. With drug testing prices sometimes as high as $100 a test, low-income Americans just can't afford any more of a financial hit, especially those who have no reason to be tested.