Mississippi is joining the list of Republican-governed states that plans on drug testing welfare benefit recipients. The state senate approved the bill which now heads to Governor Phil Bryant's desk Wednesday.
Substance abuse treatment is required the first time someone tests positive. The second time, that person loses benefits for 90 days. A third positive test would result in a loss of benefits for up to a year.
On America's Newsroom, Radio talk show host Eboni Williams said drug testing weeds out people who are using welfare benefits improperly. However she said there are two problems with this legislation.
First, a person only has to be tested if the state deems him or her likely to be a substance abuser. Williams said that could result in stereotyping and discrimination.
The other problem she identified is that children of drug users receiving welfare could suffer. “They’ve got to put something in place – a food bank, breakfast programs, free lunch programs, something so that those children are still getting food despite their parents’ behavioral choices.”
Radio talk show host Elisha Krauss said, “This is a temporary assistance program. It is not what we would dub as a food stamp program. And the issue with this is that we’re supposed to be supplementing people’s actual needs, not supplementing their drug abuse.”
Krauss said Williams has no proof that the officials implementing the legislation would specifically target minorities. “Then you’re assuming that only minorities are drug users, and minorities are using the system.”
“That’s actually the point though, Elisha,” Williams argued, “Is it’s the arbitrariness in which it’s applied.”
Both guests agreed that everyone who receives welfare benefits should be tested.