GA lawmaker pushes bill for drug testing applicants of unemployment benefits

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- A Georgia lawmaker wants to see more drug testing of unemployment applicants. He says it’s about protecting US taxpayers and treating drug abuse. Washington Correspondent Alana Austin reports on his push, and the backlash from others who say this is a bad idea.

Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) pushes bill for drug testing applicants of unemployment benefits. (Source: Gray DC)

“We are the caretakers of the taxpayers…and that’s something I take very seriously,” said Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA).

Carter wants to make it easier for states to drug test folks applying for unemployment benefits. Carter’s pushing a bill in Congress for more oversight of the program, and to ensure those out of work are ready to get back in the game.

“And if there’s someone who’s receiving unemployment benefits and they have a drug problem, then we need to get them help,” said Carter.

The measure would allow states to put in place risk assessment surveys to figure out whether an applicant is prone to drug addiction. If applicants show red flags, they would then need to take a drug test in order to receive benefits. He says this could save money from state and federal coffers.

“This is a win-win situation,” said Carter.

Rachel West with the left-leaning think tank, the Center for American Progress, says Carter’s bill would backfire. Based on her research, she says drug use is very low among those on safety net programs. And she argues Carter’s plan could be unconstitutional and hurt those trying to get back on their feet.

“It is stigmatizing, and it’s just simply alienating…” said Rachel West, Director of Poverty Research at the Center for American Progress.

West argues because those eligible for unemployment benefits have already paid into the system -- it’s their money.

“To have to undergo that invasion of privacy in order to access a benefit you’ve earned is simply beyond the pale,” said West.

The bill is unlikely to move forward in a chamber controlled by Democrats.

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