The agency isn’t forcing everyone who collects jobless benefits to take a drug test. Instead, officials are asking businesses and the public to essentially rat out people who fail a drug test required to apply for a job.
It’s a novel strategy, in part because the policy took effect without needing buy-in from lawmakers.
Record numbers of people have filed for unemployment across the country during the economic downturn, putting a huge strain on states scrambling to come up with the money. But cash-strapped agencies can’t afford to test people — and aren’t allowed to do so up front under federal law.
Supporters say cutting off the cash for known drug users would not only ease pressure on the state’s bank account, but also prevent what they say amounts to fraud.
“The commissioner feels it is unconscionable for people to defraud the system when so many people need it,” said Tom Krause, a spokesman for Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.
That logic also has been used to support drug tests for welfare recipients. Georgia has passed such a law, and a similar law in Florida has, for now, been blocked by a federal judge who cited constitutional concerns.
To receive unemployment, people must not only be actively seeking work, but must also make themselves able and available to work any job.