A new bill introduced in the U.S. House by 1st District Rep. Jack Kington, R-Ga., would require drug screenings for unemployment — ending benefits for those believed to be “rendering themselves ineligible for work.”
The bill comes after a series of listening sessions earlier this year with business owners throughout the 1st District, during which Kingston said he repeatedly heard about barriers to job creation.
While he heard many of the issues he expected, like overly burdensome regulations and the pervasive uncertainty in the economy, he said one issue that was brought up in every meeting surprised him – abuse of unemployment insurance.
“I had an employer tell me of an overwhelming response for job openings,” said Kingston. “There was just one problem: Half the people who applied could not even pass a drug test.
“While we need a safety net, taxpayers should not be on the hook to pay someone who renders themselves ineligible for work. My proposal further incentivizes beneficiaries to ensure they are preparing themselves to re-enter the workforce.”
The legislation, the Ensuring Quality in the Unemployment Insurance Program (EQUIP) Act, would require applicants for unemployment compensation to complete a drug screening assessment as a condition for benefits.
According to a press release from Kingston’s office, drug screening assessments are questionnaires approved by the National Institutes of Health and are currently used for some programs in several states.
Those identified by the assessment as having a high probability of drug use would be required to pass a drug test and would be subject to random screenings as long as they receive benefits. Applicants who fail would be responsible for the cost of the test and may take one additional retest at their own expense.
Screening applicants, rather than testing each one, is less expensive and has been upheld by in the judicial system, according to Kingston’s office. State courts in Indiana, Texas and New Jersey have upheld the practice for a variety of uses.