Ohio, like many other states, has seen an increase in drug abuse and dependency. With this, we also see a correlation between drug abusers and poverty. The Cincinnati Enquirer recently did a story on an 18-month investigation into a drug ring that benefited from taxpayers’ hard-earned money. The investigation uncovered $2 million worth of food stamps that were being exchanged for cash and drugs.
In an effort to end this kind of fraudulent behavior, we are currently considering House Bill 298. House Bill 298 would create a pilot suspicion-based drug testing program for Ohio Works First welfare recipients. Under this legislation, applicants for unemployment benefits through Ohio Works First, in participating counties, would be subject to drug testing in order to receive these welfare benefits.
House Bill 298 is designed not only to prevent tax dollars from being used for illicit drugs, but to help the individuals and families who are impacted by drug abuse. Under the bill, individuals who test positive for drugs would have access to treatment options so they can get the help they need. Also, the children of an applicant who fails the test would still be eligible to receive benefits through a protective payee. This way, children are still protected and the parents can focus on their recovery.
Opponents have tried to smear House Bill 298 and similar drug testing initiatives by calling it a war on minorities. However, data tells us that the majority of Ohioans receiving government subsidies are, in fact, Caucasian. Plus, this bill provides an avenue for those denied benefits because of a positive drug test to get clean and get their lives back on the right track.
With Ohio coming out of the Great Recession ahead of most states, we need to continue to focus on ways to cut wasteful spending and fraudulent activity. Through House Bill 298’s suspicion-based drug testing program we can prevent fraud, end the cycle of drug-induced poverty, and encourage recovery by keeping tax dollars out of the hands of criminals.
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The writer represents the 84th District in the Ohio House of Representatives.