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Only 2% of Florida Welfare Recipients Fail Drug Test – 98% Keep Benefit Payments

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posted 05:28 AM EST, Sun August 28, 2011
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Although Governor Rick Scott had claimed that cancelling benefit payments to drug users on welfare would more than pay for the cost of the testing program – it looks like he was wrong.

Governor Rick Scott of Florida has said in the past that welfare recipients are more likely than the general population to use drugs and he doesn’t think that Florida tax payers should be left with the bill to fund substance abuse.

Because of this, Scott pushed for a law which came into fruition this July which demanded that people applying for temporary assistance monies first pay for, and then pass a drug test.

  • Eligible candidates who passed the drug test would have their $30 test money refunded and be able to collect their benefits.
  • Eligible candidates failing the drug test would not have their test money refunded and would not be eligible to collect benefits for another at least 12 months.

Scott had argued that the savings of withholding benefits for drug users would more than pay for the cost of the drug testing program, but since only 2% of the applicants tested so far have tested positive for drugs (far less than the national average drug use rate) the expected savings aren’t likely to materialize.

Officials calculate that rejecting a full year’s benefits for the 2% that test positive may cover the of drugs test costs for the 98% that test negative but that is before any administration costs or salaries get factored in. Nor are possible legal costs yet in the equation, and the Florida ACLU has been protesting the law and is considering a lawsuit.

Derek Newton of the ACLU says the law may be unconstitutional and it’s at the very least unfair. He argues, "This is just punishing people for being poor, which is one of our main points.  We're not testing the population at-large that receives government money; we're not testing people on scholarships, or state contractors. So why these people? It's obvious-- because they're poor."

The governor’s office did not respond to an opportunity to comment on the lower than expected drug test failure rate.

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Story Highlights
  • 2% Fail Drug Test: Florida started testing welfare applicants in July. So far only 2% have failed the test
  • ACLU May Sue: ACLU calls drug testing welfare recipients an example of government picking on poor people
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