Ohio Gov. John Kasich is backing a proposed plan to test welfare recipients for drugs and is urging Republican leaders in the legislature to move it as a separate bill, according to the Columbus Dispatch
Critics of the plan, which would force welfare applicants suspected of illicit drug use to pay for and pass a drug test before receiving benefits, called it discriminatory.
But Kasich said it was designed to help the poor get off drugs and to safeguard tax dollars.
“When somebody says this is an attack on the poor, frankly I don’t get that,” the Republican told reporters Thursday. “First of all, the public does pay the benefit. But secondly, we want the person who might be on the drugs to get off the drugs. We have a major drug problem.”
Kasich added that job applicants in both the public and private sectors are routinely tested for drugs and suggested that advocates for the poor should look at the plan as an opportunity to help the state deal with drug abuse problems.
“The initial reaction that this is picking or this is targeting I think is an overreaction,” he said, “and we’d like them to work with us because they don’t want people to be on drugs who are on welfare.”
“Who the heck does? Nobody does,” Kasich added.
Under the proposal, benefit applicants who fail the test would be required to enroll in a drug treatment program. They would also lose benefits for six months. Applicants who pass would get their test costs reimbursed.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, warned, however, that their could “uninteded consequences” associated with the measure.
“The only result of this bill will be to put more children at risk and take away any financial support they may have . . . The unintended consequences of this bill could do irreparable harm,” she told the Dispatch.
The governor appeared to acknowledge that concern. He said hearings would have to be held to make sure needy children don’t suffer because a parent is denied benefits due to failing a drug test.
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