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Drug offenders could have welfare benefits cut off

By Sarah Smith

A political hot potato is coming soon to a county boardroom near you.

On Dec. 17, Hubbard County Social Services will ask for permission to implement Minnesota Statutes Annotated 256J.26, a 2013 state law that allows counties to deny public assistance to recipients who use drugs.

In doing so, Hubbard County joins many counties including Becker County, which recently implemented the law there.

Hubbard County Social Services Director Daryl Bessler said each county got a list of potential offenders earlier this fall from the court system.

In Hubbard County, only seven people fit the criteria. Becker County had 17. The law went into effect in November.

It requires counties to send out notices to convicted felons that they must pass a drug test before their welfare benefits can continue. Those recipients can appeal before the policy goes into effect, if approved by the county board.

If they pass the test, benefits resume for six months until the next test.

If they fail, benefits can be reduced or cut off. The issue has been bitterly debated by civil libertarians, who believe it’s an extra infringement of welfare recipients’ civil rights, and conservatives, who don’t believe public monies should subsidize criminals who abuse drugs.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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