Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM) Wants to Drug Test the Unemployed

Pearce is the latest Republican to jump on the drug test for benefits bandwagon.

Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM) filed legislation today that would make drug tests mandatory for people seeking federal unemployment benefits.

“For too long, our government has been avoiding the issue of accountability for the federal unemployment compensation program,” Pearce said in a press release, “Hard-working middle class Americans are struggling to make ends meet, and should not have to pay the way for those who have drug addictions.”

Pearce’s bill rests on the bogus assumption that unemployed people are more likely to use drugs than those with jobs, enforcing destructive stereotypes. His bill will force all applicants to pay for their own drug tests before receiving benefits, and compel current recipients to submit to testing within three months. The federal government would reimburse all negative tests with taxpayer dollars.

Last year, Florida Governor Rick Scott implemented a similar law that would require drug testing for welfare recipients, only to have it backfire at the cost of taxpayers. The New York Times reports that Florida’s drug test for benefits law ended up costing the state an extra $45,780. Just 2.6 percent of the state’s assistance applicants failed drug testing, mostly due to marijuana use.

The Huffington Post’s Arthur Delaney notes that Pearce’s bill merely represents a trend among Republicans in Congress to punish the unemployed during the nation’s long stretch of staggering unemployment. More than a dozen Republican statehouses have pushed legislation that would make drug testing a prerequisite for unemployment benefits.



Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.

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