It’s been an ongoing discussion and political battle for years now: drug testing welfare recipients who would like to receive benefits. Is it right? Is it wrong? Is it ethical? Is it intrusive? Well, the topic has landed itself right in the Pacific Northwest in the form of a measure that would “add a potential drug testing requirement to those seeking benefits in Washington State”, according to the Associated Press.
In June, it was estimated that between 121,000 and 134,000 people received monthly benefits from TANF, Washington’s temporary assistance for needy families program. Under the guidelines of TANF, all recipients have a child or are pregnant. There are also income outlines, but we won’t go into the particulars of those today. TANF recipients would first go through a determination of whether they have a drug problem or not, as completed by caseworkers. Those who do would be subjected to a drug test and then have to carry through with a treatment program in order to receive their monthly grant. Senator Don Benton of Vancouver says that the bill assures that benefit money “…is going for groceries for the kids and not for dope.” Seems reasonable enough, but Governor Jay Inslee is against the measure and so is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Like-minded politicians like Representative Ruth Kagi of Shoreline, states that “Our state can and does cut people off assistance if they have a substance abuse problem and do not get treatment” and that the bill is just a “solution looking for a problem.”
That leaves me with a question for you: is this a solution to a problem or a potential problem created from an attempted solution?