A new state law designed to prevent drug users from receiving welfare benefits could end up costing taxpayers far more than it saves, while inadvertently denying assistance to poor families simply because they are unable to comply with its complex paperwork.Like a recent wave of drug-testing laws passed in other states, Minnesota’s legislation was touted as a way to encourage greater responsibility among welfare recipients while saving taxpayers money.But many county officials and advocacy groups say the reality is quite different: The law contains a bevy of costly local mandates and complicated rules that apply to just a tiny fraction of the 167,000 Minnesotans receiving welfare and other cash benefits.Critics also say the policy is based on the false perception that large numbers of welfare recipients are using illegal drugs. A new analysis by the state Department of Human Services (DHS) found that participants in Minnesota’s welfare program for low-income families are actually far less likely to have felony drug convictions than the adult population as a whole...In 2013 alone, at least 30 states proposed bills related to drug screening and testing, with some even extending it to federal benefits such as unemployment insurance, according to the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, D.C...Just 0.4 percent of participants in the Minnesota Family Investment Program, the state’s main cash welfare program, have felony drug convictions, DHS records show. That compares with 1.2 percent of the state’s adult population as a whole.
This may be the most salient comment:
“I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that this is about saving taxpayers money,” said Heidi Welsch, director of family support and assistance for Olmsted County. “This is punitive.”