Michigan Governor Signs Law for Drug Tests before Welfare

Within the next year, Michigan will pilot a program in three counties that will require drug tests for welfare applicants who are suspected of drug use under HB 4118 and SB 275 signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on Dec. 26, 2014.  

The Michigan law comes on the heels of a federal circuit court ruling declaring unconstitutional a Florida law to drug test applicants for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the federal welfare program known as TANF.

The new Michigan law attempts to maneuver around the constitutional issue by requiring the tests only of individuals suspected of using drugs. The bill calls for caseworkers to administer a suspicion-based screening before requiring the drug test. If someone refuses the test, they will be ineligible for benefits for six months. A positive test will not result in benefit losses; instead, applicants will be referred to a treatment program.

Results of the three-county pilot are due no later than Sept. 30, 2016. 

“We want to remove the barriers that are keeping people from getting good jobs, supporting their families and living independently. This pilot program is intended to help ensure recipients get the wrap-around services they need to overcome drug addiction and lead successful lives. We’ll then have opportunity to assess effectiveness and outcomes,” the governor said in his press release.

According to USA Today, opponents of the legislation cited similar programs in other states that have not saved taxpayers money. The nonpartisan Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency estimated potential costs of between $700,000 and $3.4 million and potential savings of $370,000 to $3.7 million from benefit denials.