Ohio lawmakers propose drug testing for public assistance recipients

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)- Ohio lawmakers say they want to fight the statewide drug epidemic by establishing a screening process for those in the Ohio First Cash Assistance Program. Opponents say drug testing for welfare recipients demonize the poor.

State Representatives Tim Schaffer and Ron Maag said they want to prevent drug addicts from selling their cash assistance cards to buy drugs.

“I know a lot of people take these cards and they sell them. 50 cents on the dollar,” said Maag.

But more than stopping the drug activity the lawmakers say they want to help the families get the public assistance.

Under the plan, applicants for cash assistance would be screened for drug dependence. They could be ordered to take a drug test, and if they failed, they would be referred for counseling.

But their children or other family members could still receive the public assistance. “We’re not here to put punitive measures in the law or anything like that. We want to make sure we’re healing these families,” said Schaffer.

However, critics said the proposal merely perpetuates the unfair stereotype that people on public assistance are more likely to be drug dependent than the general population.

“This is a punitive approach. This deprives people of public benefits. They desperately need these benefits,” said Lisa Wurm of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Linda Cook with the Ohio Poverty Law Center said the bill would set up barriers. “You just keep people from getting the help they need and they just slip further into poverty.”

But representative Schaffer said the bill is meant to do just the opposite. “Saving the taxpayer money is important, but that’s not the only goal here. I think we will save untold millions by getting these families healed and getting them back into the economy.”

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