Ohio Lawmakers Want To Drug Test Welfare Recipients

Ohio Lawmakers Want To Drug Test Welfare Recipients

State lawmakers are considering a proposal to require drug tests for Ohioans who receive welfare assistance.

The bill is in response to a state study that found drug abuse to be a major obstacle to welfare recipients getting jobs and gaining independence.

Supporters say this proposal will not stop benefits from getting to children in need, and those who fail drug tests can receive treatment.

"The worst tragedy in these families is that these kids aren't getting the taxpayer help that we intend,” Representative Tim Schaffer of Fairfield County said. “The money is going somewhere, and if it's not going to feed and clothe the children, and make sure that there's a safe roof over their heads at night, then where is this money going?  We have an obligation- an absolute obligation- to go in and make sure that that money is being used to help those kids and other dependents in the family."

But critics say it punishes the poor, without addressing the real problem of addiction in Ohio.

"There's also a real issue with treatment capacity, especially in some of the rural counties,” Jon Honeck with The Center for Community Solutions said. “The services may not be there at the time you need them. People may have to wait for weeks even to get a slot in a treatment center. So some of the practical issues around the bill really need to be worked out."

As of July, more than 110,000 Ohioans were receiving cash assistance. Nearly 95,000 of them are children.

More on House Bill 298.