Budget Committee OKs Drug Testing for Welfare Job Programs

About 14,000 low-income parents who apply for Wisconsin Works job programs would be screened for drugs, and possibly tested, under a proposal a key legislative committee approved Tuesday.

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 Tuesday to include the provision in the state budget, further increasing its chances of becoming law after the Assembly passed the idea as a separate bill earlier this month.

The proposal from Gov. Scott Walker would require screening for drugs in order to participate in three W-2 work programs. Drug screening has been required for four state-run work programs since 2015. In that time, 1,837 people have been screened and 42 of them have been referred to drug testing based on their responses to questions in the screening. Of those, nine were referred for treatment.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that under the expanded screening, about 264 additional W-2 participants would be referred for drug testing annually, or 2.3 percent of those in the programs. Of those, about 56 are projected to test positive and be referred for treatment.

Given the low numbers of people expected to be tested, the cost of expanding the screening, testing and treatment is expected to be minimal. Those who fail the tests and get treatment continue to receive benefits during that time.

The new testing requirement would apply to the Temporary Employment Match program, which provides a subsidy for wages to the participant’s employer, and the Community Service Jobs and Transitional Placement programs, both of which provide a participant with a monthly grant.