Recipients of welfare benefits and food stamps may now have to undergo a drug test to determine their eligibility due to a new bill signed this week.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 772 Tuesday, which allows those suspected of drug use to be tested. Suspected use may be determined through previous records, work history or suspect behavior according to the bill.
The bill states a positive testing would result in the loss of eligibility for food stamps. Upon the first positive, food stamps will be suspended for a month. On the second positive, food stamps will be suspended for three months and on the third positive testing, food stamps will be suspended for a year. According to the bill, the recipient would also have to pay for each drug test.
Children and people living in nursing homes will be exempt from the drug test. Based on the bill, if a parent fails a drug test, it is their responsibility to designate another individual to receive food stamps on behalf of the child.
In another proposal made by Gov. Deal, a bill is in the works that would drug test recipients of unemployment benefits.
Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner, Mark Butler, said approval is needed by the United States Department of Labor before this can move forward.
Butler said the idea is to enhance unemployment programs by following a drug court model. Those who fail the drug test would have to option to be admitted into a state-funded treatment program if they want to keep unemployment benefits.
Sasha Dlugolenski, press secretary of the Governor’s Office, said in an emailed statement,
“The governor has said that drug abuse poses a major barrier to getting and keeping a job. He believes we have a duty to help those to want to help themselves by providing an option for treatment.”
If they refuse the treatment program, they will lose benefits.
“If some, however, reject treatment and instead choose a lifestyle that renders them unemployable, taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize that.”
Butler said many times drug use leads to unemployment and the idea is to get people “ready and available for work.”
Not all recipients would have to adhere to a drug test. Butler said the U.S. Department of Labor would have to create and approve a list of professions that are eligible to be drug tested. Butler said those professions are undetermined as of right now.
The list should be completed sometime in the fall according to Butler.
The latest numbers of unemployment claims made this year is 300,000 state-wide according to Butler. Last year just under 664 million dollars was paid out in unemployment benefits.
According to the Department of Labor, Troup County reported 243 unemployment claims in March, which is a 34.5 percent reduction from February and a 31.5 percent reduction from March 2013.