by Jonah Shepp
Darlena Cunha, a mother of twins who spent 18 months on the WIC program (while working full time and paying taxes), brings some personal perspective to bear on why drug testing welfare recipients amounts to utter overkill in a welfare system that already assumes all applicants are lying:
It’s also not just a phone call and done. Women applying must be pregnant or up to six months post-partum. Children can receive services up to their fifth birthday, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services. Once you’ve called, you have to provide proof of income for everyone in the household, proof of identity, proof of residence, proof of participation in any other program—including Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or General Assistance—immunization records for your children, pregnancy confirmation (official note from your doctor), recent height and weight measurements and a blood test for hemoglobin levels, and a WIC Referral Form from your doctor. You also have to provide documentation of any child support payments, unemployment benefits, or short-term disability money received. These requirements vary slightly from state to state, but for the most part they are consistent. …
Applying and being accepted for aid is a mentally grueling process that can stretch on for months. Add to that the humiliation of having to pee in a cup just because you can’t afford to eat.
I’ve touched on this before (and garnered some angry e-mails from readers for suggesting that Paul Ryan was on to something about how demoralizing it can be to live on welfare), but I’m always glad to see someone speak on this from a personal perspective, given how few such stories make their way into the public consciousness. I grew up on welfare in New York City in the 80s and 90s with an alcoholic single mother, so my experience in the system is very different from Cunha’s, yet I agree abundantly with the main thrust of her argument, which cannot be stressed enough: welfare is not exactly designed to make recipients feel good about themselves.