Welfare Drug Testing Rolls Out in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has taken the first baby step toward its drug testing for welfare recipients program. The program, which passed the Legislature and was signed into law last year, has begun as a pilot program in Schuylkill County and will move throughout the entire state assuming it’s cost effective — which may sound odd assuming you heard about the latest round of state cuts in Gov. Tom Corbett’s address this morning. The Center for Law and Social Policy estimates drug testing the poor will cost between $20,000 and $77,000 per person.
Under the law, the state will test welfare recipients with a drug felony conviction within the last five years and those on probation for drug felonies. The original bill looked to test all recipients of public funds.
When we talked to the original bill’s co-sponsor, State Sen. Richard Alloway last year, he told us, “I’m not all hardcore, you know, ‘Throw them on the streets, they’re no good.’ That’s not who I am. I recognize a drug addiction for what it is. I just want to help people do better in life, get them the job skills they need to make an impact on society … Sure, this bill is carrot and stick, but I want it to be more carrot.”
The ACLU of Pennsylvania, who had fought against this bill while in its legislative stage, did not have a comment for PW on what their continued work will consist of.
Similar legislation has been either proposed or passed in about three-dozen states around the country. A Florida bill was blocked by a federal judge as an invasion of privacy and violation of the Fourth Amendment. Pennsylvania’s law takes this into account and is designed to be less invasive than Florida’s version.