In a deal to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, Congress has passed a law that would soon allow states to conduct drug-tests before handing out payments.
While the Republicans initially wanted to extend the drug-tests to all unemployment benefit applicants, the new law would only allow the tests to be conducted on people who were fired from their last job for drugs, or anyone seeking jobs that would already require a drug test.
As part of the $140 billion bill that extends emergency jobless benefits, and in an attempt to modernize what the NYT calls an ‘outdated unemployment insurance system’, the new changes aim to aid the chronically jobless and help bring down the unemployment rate.
Other changes include procedural checks that would first ensure that an applicant is actively searching for a job, career counseling, as well as ‘work sharing’ programs that can help reduce layoffs at big businesses.
Yet, many are outraged by the bill which President Obama has said he would sign into effect.
Though it is not yet clear how many states will begin the drug-tests, an editorial on the San Francisco Chronicle argued:
The Chronicle also pointed out that the drug-tests could push drugs users to shift to more harmful and addictive drugs that leave the body faster than the ‘benign’ marijuana.
While medical studies have noted a correlation between unemployment and substance use disorders, TIME states that “although addiction rates among the unemployed are nearly double those for people with jobs, no one knows what proportion of this group was fired due to pre-existing addiction-related issues and what percent became addicted because they lost their jobs and began self-medicating to fill up their time or overcome feelings of uselessness.”
Perhaps the biggest problem is not the issue of drug abuse, but rather the lack of new jobs available in the market – especially for colleague graduates.