“While there are certainly legitimate needs for public assistance, it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction,” Scott said in a news release. “This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars.”
According to legislative analysts, 113,346 people are receiving temporary cash assistance. However, only people 18 and older will be tested, and officials from the Department of Children and Families estimate that will total about 4,400 adults who apply for aid each month.
Officials estimate the initial screenings would cost about $10 per person – refundable if the individual passes – and first-time failures will be disqualified for one year from receiving benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. A second failure disqualifies the individual for three years.
TANF recipients are eligible for cash assistance for a lifetime cumulative total of 48 months, and their eligibility is checked every six months.
Advocates for the poor worry about the cost of the tests – which one DCF official said could go as high as $40 -- and also about the message the new rule sends to people already facing financial problems.
State Rep. Gwen Clarke-Reed, D-Deerfield Beach, said the new law could hurt families by delaying welfare money they rely upon. And, Clarke-Reed noted, a potential welfare recipient, presumably lacking cash, must pay for their own drug test.
“How are you going to have money for that?” she asked.
Mitch Ceasar, chairman of the Broward County Democratic Party, said the new law was “very wrong headed” and motivated by political grandstanding. “This is just the governor and the Legislature appealing to their far-right constituency,” he said.
Whether the law passes legal muster isn’t a concern of its authors, he added.
“This Legislature and this extreme governor care less about whether the bill stands up constitutionally,” he said. “They care more about the message they’re sending to their extreme right-wing groups.”
Sid Dinerstein, chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party, said the law could have several benefits, including forcing addicts to confront their problem. It would also serve taxpayers.
“If it separates an addict from public assistance then it’s a benefit to everybody, including the children of the addict,” he said. “The thought of us giving tax dollars to someone who has a substance abuse problem is absurd.”
Richard DeNapoli, chairman of the Broward County Republican Party, agreed, saying Scott campaigned for the law. “It was something he promised to implement when he was running for office and he lived up to his promise,” he said.
However, the new law does allow DCF to designate a person to receive funds on behalf of children whose parent fails a drug test. This could include an immediate family member.
Florida’s welfare caseload spiked as the economy tanked and the housing market folded. But it is slowly starting to decline as the state begins to recover. The 52,911 families receiving assistance in May was 6.1 percent below the total 12 months earlier, DCF said.
No other state currently requires drug testing for welfare recipients, but a number of states are considering similar action.
The effectiveness of testing is unknown. A pilot program that tested some welfare recipients between 1999 to 2001 found that there was little difference in employment and earnings between those who tested positive for drug use and those who were clean, according to an evaluation by a Florida State University researcher.
The American Civil Liberties Union has indicated that it may challenge the new law in addition to a number of other bills that the governor has already approved or is likely to sign in the coming weeks. The group is slated to announce action today related to a separate order by Scott that mandates drug-testing of all state employees.
In 1999, Michigan began drug-testing all welfare recipients, prompting the ACLU to sue. In 2003, a federal appeals court ruled that universal testing was unconstitutional, and the ACLU and the state reached an agreement that allowed drug tests of welfare recipients only if there was reasonable suspicion that the person was using drugs.
Howard Simon, the executive director of ACLU of Florida, released a statement saying that the governor was ignoring privacy law and treating people who have lost their jobs “like suspected criminals.”
Simon said that the governor surely was aware of the 2003 a federal court ruling.
“Nevertheless, their zeal to score political points on the backs of Florida poor once again overrode their duty to uphold the Constitution,” Simon said of Scott and his GOP supporters. “Searching the bodily fluids of those in need of assistance is a scientifically, fiscally and constitutionally unsound policy.”
Asked by Anonymous at 6:13 PM on Jun. 2, 2011 in Politics & Current Events
Answer by daughteroftruth at 9:51 PM on Jun. 2, 2011
Answer by Kathy675 at 8:12 PM on Jun. 2, 2011
Answer by mommy_of_two388 at 6:14 PM on Jun. 2, 2011
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Answer by ArmyWifeAshlie at 6:18 PM on Jun. 2, 2011
People don't have to be on drugs to abuse welfare.
Answer by momavanessa at 6:19 PM on Jun. 2, 2011
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Answer by Farmlady09 at 12:19 AM on Jun. 3, 2011
Next question overall
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