WASHINGTON (WSAV) – Congressman Buddy Carter is putting forth new efforts to drug test people applying for unemployment insurance.
The Ensuring Quality in the Unemployment Insurance Program (EQUIP) Act would require substance abuse risk assessments in order to receive benefits.
“Unemployment is not for people who are abusing drugs and using that money to buy drugs but instead to help them get back on their feet,” says Rep. Carter. “And we want to make sure that is what they are doing with.”
Under the proposed law, states would be able to screen applicants to see if they are at high risk for substance abuse. If so, that person would have to pass a drug test before receiving unemployment benefits.
Some opponents say this plan is unconstitutional.
“Federal courts in Michigan and Florida that held the mere fact that you are applying for a public benefit is not constitutional grounds to require somebody to pass a drug test in order to qualify for that benefit,” says George Wentworth with the National Employment Law Project.
Wentworth says taking a risk assessment could unfairly target applicants with high-scores, forcing them to take a drug test.
“Representative Carter’s bill goes on a bit of a fishing expedition to create reasonable suspicion,” says Wentworth.
Carter says, if passed, the plan would save tax dollars by preventing people from abusing government programs.
“It is helping people. And that is what unemployment is for to help people and help them get back on their feet,” Carter argues. “And we want to make sure if they’re abusing it if they’re using it for the wrong reasons they shouldn’t be getting it.”