Governor Rick Perry signed a bill into law that would require some unemployment applicants to be drug tested. If they failed the test, they wouldn't get their benefits.
On Friday, Governor Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 21into law. It forces those applying for unemployment benefits to go through screening for possible drug use. Depending on how they answer a questionnaire, they will face a mandatory drug test. A failed test will result in zero benefits.
"Anyone who squanders their benefit money on illegal drugs is wasting the support they've been given using resources that should be reserved for those truly in need," said Perry.
The new law would only apply to those who are in certain occupations. The Texas Workforce Commission has identified 150 careers that currently require drug testing.
Executive Director Larry Temple expects about 55,000 people will be subject to screening and three percent will not pass a drug test.
"I think it's something that employers expect and I think we'll be able to provide that for them," Temple said.
There are $300,000 Texans currently receiving unemployment benefits. The maximum weekly payout is $450 dollars. It lasts for 26 weeks. Employer insurance policies pay that.
The federal government has a provision that extends benefits for those who qualify by an additional 27 weeks, allowing for a year worth of income.
Several of those currently seeking employment told us they welcome drug screening.
"It's a good thing because it shows you're employer (a) you're clean of drugs, (b) if you'd had a prior offense they can talk to you about it," said Tillie.
"If it will stoke us to get up and think more into doing for ourselves more so than relying on government handouts than I'm all for it," Freddie Childress said.
Wayne Krause Yang of the Texas Civil Rights Project says the law is an invasion of privacy.
"Why are you picking on people who are already in a tough situation in life? There's no relation between this test and what people are trying to get and really it's oppressing the people who need the help most," said Krause.
He says drug enforcement is better left to police.
The law goes into effect on September 1. It applies to those seeking unemployment from February 2014 on.