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Wisconsin to Begin Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced that he has signed off on the state’s plan to drug test some welfare recipients, which will be implemented on November 9th.

Walker’s office released a statement on Tuesday which said that the program submitted by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families is “another step forward in implementing drug testing of able-bodied adults seeking certain welfare benefits.”

Walker said that the program will apply to “certain able-bodied adults seeking benefits and/or training through Transform Milwaukee, Transitional Jobs, and noncustodial parents in the W-2 program.”

[pull_quote_center]Our 2015-17 State Budget implements common-sense reforms that put in place drug screening, testing, and treatment mechanisms, so we can continue strengthening Wisconsin’s workforce Employers across the state frequently tell me they have good-paying jobs available in high-demand fields, but need their workers to be drug-free. These important entitlement reforms will help more people find family-supporting jobs, moving them from government dependence to true independence.[/pull_quote_center]

Under the new plan, Walker also noted that “individuals who test positive for a controlled substance without a prescription would be eligible for a drug treatment plan.”

While Walker dropped out of the presidential race in September, creating a drug-testing program for welfare recipients was one of the plans he highlighted when he announced his campaign bid in July.

“In Wisconsin, we enacted a program that says that adults who are able to work must be enrolled in one of our job training programs before they can get a welfare check,” Walker said at his campaign launch. “Now, as of the budget I just signed, we are also making sure they can take a drug test.”

[RELATED: Walker Takes Feds To Court To Drug-Test for Food Stamps]

Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against top officials at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in July, challenging the federal rules surrounding the U.S. food stamp program known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Federal rules were unclear regarding whether states could legally drug test welfare recipients.

In February, ThinkProgress reported that after looking at similar programs in Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah, it found that the states are spending “hundreds of thousands of dollars to ferret out very few drug users.”

The report noted that according to statistics, while the states collectively have spent nearly $1 million on the drug-testing efforts, welfare applications test positive for drugs at a rate of 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, which is lower than the national drug use rate of 9.4 percent.

Walker Takes The Feds To Court To Drug-Test For Food Stamps

By Connor D. Wolf

In preparation for a possible federal challenge, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel filed a lawsuit Tuesday asking the district court to allow the state to drug-test food stamp recipients.

“This lawsuit seeks to provide clarity that the state of Wisconsin has the authority to require drug-testing for FoodShare recipients,” Schimel said in a statement. “In previous communications with the state of Wisconsin, the federal government has taken the opposite position despite the clear statutory language in federal law.”

The lawsuit was filed against top officials at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The agency oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. The main problem is unclear federal rules regarding whether states can drug-test those on welfare.

The program is run by both federal and state agencies. Though the state has interrupted federal law to say it could drug-test recipients, Program Director for the Midwest Susan Holzer warned it could not.

“As you are aware, states are prohibited under federal law from imposing any additional eligibility conditions on individuals for the receipt of SNAP benefits,” Holzer wrote in an email, according to the lawsuit.

“Therefore, FNS will continue to monitor closely any action the Wisconsin state Legislature takes on this legislation,” the email continued. “If the legislation is subsequently enacted into law, FNS will work with its general counsel to determine how it interacts with federal law governing the program and advise the state agency appropriately.”

Wisconsin first proposed drug-testing food stamp recipients in the most recent state budget, signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Sunday. Walker is currently running in the Republican primary for president. Wisconsin is not the first state which has tried to implement drug-testing for welfare recipients. Georgia proposed a similar policy but in 2014 the USDA held the same position that the state could not.

SNAP is the nation’s largest food-assistance program. According to a report from the USDA, the program has increased from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014. The size alone has prompted concern amongmany lawmakers of the potential for abuse.

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