NCleg: Drug testing unemployment applicants could be next
Unemployed workers who want state benefits must verify each week that they have searched for a job. Now some state lawmakers want to add a new requirement: pass a drug test.
Such a bill has yet to be introduced but Sen. Jim Davis, a Republican from Franklin, said that everyone he’s talked to about the idea has responded positively.
“If you have to pass a drug test to get a job and you lose that job, then we think that drug testing should remain a component of getting unemployment compensation,” Davis said.
To receive unemployment benefits in North Carolina, you must have lost your job through no fault of your own. If you were fired for “just cause” such as using drugs, you would typically not be eligible, although applicants are allowed to make a case for why they should receive benefits.
It may not make it to the floor during this session, though. Stevens said it depends on how quickly staff can get the bill ready. Among the details to be worked out is, of course, how to pay for the drug tests. More than 400,000 are still unemployed in North Carolina.
Read the full story at the Raleigh News & Observer.
Remember that when Florida decided to drug test welfare recipients, the program cost the state more than it saved (and the law was later deemed unconstitutional).
In addition, the state legislature just cut unemployment benefits:
Federal extended unemployment benefits end for more than 70,000 jobless North Carolinians on [July 1] as the state becomes the first in the nation to opt out of the federal long-term compensation program.
A state unemployment overhaul that takes effect this weekend disqualifies North Carolina from receiving the federal benefits intended for those unemployed longer than 26 weeks. Federal law cuts off aid to states that don’t maintain their current benefit system.
Advocates for the unemployed say the measure will hurt the state’s economy, where the unemployment rate is the fifth-highest in the nation at 8.8 percent in May.
In addition to those losing benefits when the law kicks in, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that by the end of the year an additional 100,000 jobless workers in North Carolina won’t receive the long-term unemployment benefits for which they’d otherwise have been eligible.
The unemployment overhaul, passed in February, raises taxes on employers and cuts both the amount and length of benefits for the unemployed.
The overhaul scales back maximum unemployment benefits to workers by nearly one-third, from $535 a week to $350 a week, and reduces the maximum weeks of benefits from 26 weeks to between 12 and 20 weeks, depending on the state’s unemployment rate.
John Shaw, a spokesman for the North Carolina Justice Center, a group that advocates for the poor, said Friday that the measure would have an adverse ripple effect on the state’s economy.
“People will lose the modest benefits they were getting for basic needs,” he said. “Once that money goes away, businesses won’t be getting paid.”
Read the full story at the Charlotte Observer.
Looks like North Carolina is going to learn a bitter lesson in Keynesian multipliers. Oh, who am I kidding: as more people lose their jobs and are added to the unemployment rolls, the General Assembly will just cut benefits further to avoid debt. And that’s what this is really about: paying down the state’s debt while lowering corporate taxes:
The move was meant, in part, to reduce the tax burden for businesses, which would see a $21 per employee increase each year until the federal debt is paid off. By enacting this new policy, the state estimates it will be able to pay off its debt to the Feds by 2015 or 2016 — as opposed to 2018. With about 4 million employed people in the state (again, according to the Fed), that’s a savings of about $250 million for those businesses.
Read the full story at the Atlantic Wire.