TALLAHASSEE – A state lawmaker is proposing a bill to drug test unemployed Floridians collecting unemployment benefits.
“Let’s make sure it’s going to people who truly are ready, able, and willing to work. People who can’t pass a random drug test really probably shouldn’t be collecting our unemployment money,” said bill sponsor Senator Mike Bennett, a Republican from Sarasota.
Last month the state of Florida paid out $117-million in unemployment benefits.
Bennett’s bill calls for 10 percent of those who file an unemployment claim to undergo random testing. Also, 10 percent of people already receiving unemployment benefits would be tested.
Leaving the unemployment office, Dorothy Odie explained how these days “the unemployed” includes “the hard-working” and people who’ve worked their whole lives. “These people that’s coming here, they’re working people that have been on their jobs. One man I met today, he’d been on his job 30 years. So, you’re labeling people,” she said.
But Bennett insists that’s not the case. “Whether soft drugs or hard drugs, get clean first so the next person who hires you will not have the liability of having you on the payroll.”
The proposal says anyone who failed their drug test couldn’t get unemployment benefits for one year.
The bill still has to go to legislative committee. The cost of each drug test would come out of individual benefits.
So you’re going to take money out of people’s unemployment benefits to drug test them, and if they fail, deny them benefits for a year. I see. In an economy where all the spending has frozen up, you want to see to it that people who are out of work have even less money to spend. In an economy where houses are being foreclosed on at record rates, you want to have more homeless people.
Unemployment benefits are not a privilege and they are not your money, Senator. When you work, you are paying money into an insurance pool that repays you if you are unemployed — and remember, you can’t get these unemployment benefits if you are fired for cause, like if you were fired for failing a drug test at work, for instance. People on unemployment trying to find new work often face the hurdle of passing a drug test anyway. To have built up the time to qualify for unemployment, you may have already passed pre-employment and random testing on the job in the past.
Being laid off and collecting a benefit you’ve worked hard and paid into all your life is not probable cause to believe you’re committing drug crimes. Being unemployed does not give the state the right to violate your privacy. If the concern is that unemployment benefits are being used to support “drug habits”, create new “unemployment bucks” like Food Stamps that can’t be used to buy liquor, either. Surely pounding the forty-ouncers isn’t a “liability of having you on the payroll” any business wants when hiring you, right? While you’re at it, how about reducing people’s unemployment benefits 50% if they are a cigarette smoker? Health care costs for smokers are a huge business liability, right?