Created: 01/08/2014 6:29 PM KAALtv.com
By: Jenna Lohse
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It’s a relatively new law in Minnesota that has some crying foul. But the local lawmaker who pushed it through says the measure is intended to protect taxpayers. Last July counties around the state had to start drug testing welfare recipients who had certain prior criminal convictions.
We talked with Olmsted County Family Support and Assistance who says randomly testing convicted drug felons who are on public assistance isn't the issue here.
In fact only 46 people in Olmsted County are now required to take these random drug tests. It's the staff time spent creating a county policy from the law and administering the tests that can be costly.
Under the new rule, two failed drug tests result in permanent disqualification for aid.
Representative Drazkowski says the law is a way to instill personal responsibility, but some county officials feel these people have already served their time and worry the new rule could have repercussions.
"What happens to those clients in the long run if they lose their cash benefits and they are chemically dependent? They might come through another door, they might end up committing a crime, they might end up in detox something more expensive then the money they are spending through benefits program,” said Heidi Welsch, Director of Olmsted County Family Support and Assistance.
“This might be a way for those individuals to realize that you know what, you've got a problem and you need to get that, get your life straightened out and maybe this will be a sounding alarm to actually help those folks,” said Rep. Steve Drazkowski.
As of now, letters have been sent to convicted drug felons in Olmsted County explaining the new rule. No drug tests have been done. Local agencies say the word "random" is not defined within the law, which has them interpreting in different ways. For Olmsted County that means just once a year. We also talked with human services in Mower County who say they are drug testing four times a year.