House Republicans Fail To Hold Promised Hearing On Drug Testing The Jobless

House Republicans Forget To Hold Hearing On Drug Testing The Jobless

WASHINGTON -- Republicans in the House of Representatives appear to have forgotten to hold their hearing on the allegedly widespread problem of drug use among the unemployed.

In February, Congress passed a law that will eventually allow states to drug test some workers who apply for unemployment insurance. Congressional Republicans who supported the measure had acknowledged that they didn't have much information on the problem, but they said they would hold a hearing in the spring to gather some data.

"We're going to have a hearing on that next year," Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) told HuffPost in December. "I think we do need to get more data."

Camp chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees unemployment insurance. He vowed to hold a hearing on drug testing the unemployed by spring of this year, but spring has come and gone without a hearing. The committee held a hearing in April on other reforms to the unemployment insurance system, but drug use among the jobless was barely mentioned.

State workforce agencies don't know whether they could save money by testing unemployment claimants, testified Darrell Gates, deputy commissioner of New Hampshire's state workforce agency.

"To make informed decisions, further information would be needed," Gates said in his testimony, submitted on behalf of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.

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Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) was the lead proponent of drug testing the jobless in Congress late last year. When he introduced drug testing legislation, he said businesses in his district had complained of job applicants constantly flunking drug tests. Investigations of the claim turned up anecdotes, but no empirical evidence of the problem. Starting in February, the Georgia Department of Labor asked businesses to report job applicants who fail drug tests, but so far none have done so.

Kingston said in December he looked forward to Camp holding a hearing "no later than the spring" on the issue. On Tuesday, Kingston spokesman Chris Crawford said the timing of a meeting would be up to the Ways and Means Committee. "We still remain committed to getting a hearing and are working with them but understand they have a very hectic schedule," Crawford said in an email.

Kingston might never get his hearing. A spokesman for the Ways and Means Committee noted that drug testing was discussed during the April hearing, but he declined to say whether that hearing would be the last to address the topic.

National drug use surveys suggest the unemployed are twice as likely as people with jobs to use illegal drugs. However, there is little data demonstrating a drug problem among job applicants or recipients of unemployment insurance. Just 2.2 percent of enrollees in an Indiana job training program, for example, have flunked tests since the state required testing last year.

This story has been updated to include reaction from a Ways and Means spokesman.

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