The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

April 10, 2013

Battling welfare fraud

Wozniak drug-testing bill has our approval

— In a nation where billions of tax dollars annually fall victim to waste, fraud and mismanagement, we have no problems with legislators trying to halt these ugly practices.

Last week, state Sen. John Wozniak was called out to defend his legislation requiring welfare assistance applicants to undergo random drug testing.

His answer: It’s already a common practice in the business world, where a growing number of employers require drug tests as part of the hiring process.

He could have added: Anyone with nothing to hide shouldn’t object. 

Indeed, we want very much to believe that only a small minority of individuals receiving welfare dollars don’t meet the criteria for the various programs. But we should all agree that even that is too many.

Individuals deemed eligible shouldn’t be hindered in getting the help they need by others who use those dollars for unintended purposes – and that includes feeding dangerous and illegal drug habits.

Wozniak said drug testing would help dispel misperceptions about recipients’ backgrounds while at the same time weeding out anyone trying to take advantage of the system.

“Everyone talks about how everyone is a slimy welfare recipient and, in most cases, they are just people who need some help,” he said. 

Welfare must not be viewed or accepted as a way of life – where generation after generation lives on the dole.

It should be viewed for what it truly should be: A way for an individual to receive help as he or she works toward self-reliance.

Wozniak’s certainly isn’t a new idea.   

Pennsylvania, according to CNHI Harrisburg Bureau chief John Finnerty, is one of 29 states considering proposals to drug-screen welfare applicants.

At least seven states already have passed various drug-screening or testing  laws. A bill also has been introduced in the U.S. House.

“I’m all for this bill, but much more can be done,” one respondent to our website, www.tribdem- .com, said. “How about some legislation that requires the state to put a photo ID on Access Cards? By the way, I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts this bill   doesn’t pass since it makes so much sense.”

Added another writer: “I have never been much of a fan of Wozniak, but I like this. And it’s something that may help the local community in the process.”

We have not always agreed with the longtime Westmont Democrat, either, but we urge support for his drug-testing bill.

We also suggest that the $30 fee for each drug test be passed along to those applying for benefits. The money could be paid up-front or deducted from their first check.

Helping people in need is the American way, but welfare fraud is a crime against all Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Reporting fraud

The Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General relies on tips from concerned citizens. To report suspected fraud, call the Welfare Fraud Tipline at 800-932-0582. Callers may remain anonymous.

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