Wisconsin’s attorney general has filed a federal lawsuit aimed at allowing the state to enforce a new drug testing requirement for food stamp recipients.
The provision, included in the state budget signed by Governor Scott Walker over the weekend, allows the state to require a drug test for any able-bodied adult without dependents who applies for FoodShare benefits. Federal officials have told the state that it will be unable to enforce the mandate, because federal law prevents states from imposing eligibility requirements for food stamp programs that differ from federal standards.
Governor Scott Walker has said the requirement is intended to make it easier for welfare recipients to be “job ready,” arguing that many employers have complained about being unable to find job applicants who can pass a drug test. In a statement released Tuesday, the governor said that “by requiring able-bodied adults to be drug free, we aren’t making it harder to get government assistance; we are making it easier to get a job. Our reforms offer a hand up to those who need it, so they can get back on their feet through drug treatment and access to employment training.”
The state maintains it is allowed to require testing, based on a 1996 law that allows states to test “welfare recipients” and impose sanctions on them. The Department of Justice is arguing that “FoodShare recipients are “welfare recipients” and therefore may be tested and sanctioned for the use of controlled substances” and Attorney General Brad Schimel said that there needs to be more “clarity” from the federal government about the issue.
The state is asking for a federal judge to issue an injunction, which would allow the drug testing requirement to go forward.