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Drug Testing for Unemployment Benefits?

9:43 AM, Dec 8, 2011   |    comments
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ST AUGUSTINE, Fla. --  It's a struggle for so many people on the First Coast, with nearly ten percent of people without a job.

Over the past four years, nearly 18 million Americans collected federal unemployment benefits, and now a local congressman wants to make it tougher to get that money.

Congressman Jack Kingston has proposed legislation that would drug test unemployment benefit applicants, a proposal that's not sitting well with some recipients. 

"I'm living on liquefied sardines from the dollar store. Sardines and pepperoni. I'm living on dollar store canned goods," said St. Augustine resident Diane Salino.

Salino was laid off a year and a half ago, and said her unemployment benefits have barely helped her keep her head above water.

"Mainly what I get is no response at all. I can't get a response to a resume or a cover letter," she said.

Salino has lost track of the number of times she's been turned down. It's hard for her, and she said the government isn't making it any easier.

Kingston introduced his bill Wednesday. "They're finding that many of the people who are unemployed and getting unemployment benefits are actually also using drugs and therefore they're not eligible for work," he said.

His bill would screen people applying for benefits with a rapid drug test, and randomly test some applicants for the entire time they received benefits.

"There is a cost in that but I think the cost to our society is a lot greater of having people that are unemployed to remain ineligible to work and still receive taxpayer unemployment benefits," said Kingston.

A similar bill in Florida to drug test welfare recipients proposed by Governor Rick Scott has been challenged in court and is currently on hold.

Kingston hopes his bill doesn't get the same treatment, because he thinks Scott had it right.

"I think what Governor Scott is doing is moving in the right directions because there's just so much frustration," he said.

Diane Salino is frustrated, not only by her employment status, but now, she said, with the suggestion that she's taking drugs.

"This is my drug of choice, blood pressure medication, and when my benefits run out, that's it. Zip, zip zippo," she said. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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