A plan that would require applicants for welfare and unemployment benefits in Texas to be tested for drugs would hurt children, critics argue. The plan is backed by Governor Rick Perry.
Under the proposed plan, only applicants considered to be at high risk for drug use would be tested. Those who failed the drug test and lost benefits could reapply in six months if they underwent drug treatment, the Houston Chronicle reports. Those who did not undergo treatment could reapply for benefits in a year.
State Representative Sylvester Turner said the proposal singles out the poor and jobless. “Let’s say you may have a mom or father who’s taking care of the children who may be on drugs. In order to get the adult, you are going to penalize the children? What are you going to do then? What about the children?” he asked.
State Senator Judith Zaffirini said the proposal would have unintended consequences. “If a parent is addicted to drugs, then that problem should be dealt with, and a child should not be left hungry and not caused to face health risks because of the misbehavior of a parent,” she told the newspaper.
Supporters of the measure say children of people who use drugs are already suffering, and testing could deter their parents from drug abuse. They add the proposal could serve as an incentive for treatment, and improve the chances for employment and self sufficiency.
A Florida law that required welfare applicants to undergo drug testing was halted last year after the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sued the state to stop it. About 2.5 percent of the 4,000 adults tested before the program was stopped tested positive for drugs. Almost 2,500 people refused to take the drug test.