Florida to charge welfare applicants to take drug test
June 8th, 2011
08:59 PM ET
12 years ago

Florida to charge welfare applicants to take drug test

Orlando, Florida (CNN) - Starting on July 1 in Florida, anyone who applies for welfare must first pass a drug test.

Some welfare recipients say it's a good idea, for the most part.

"I'm for it because I know people who misuse the funds," said unemployed Kennley Grant outside a central Florida welfare office where he is applying for government assistance.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the Republican-sponsored bill into law last week, adding Florida to a list of states trying to drug-test welfare recipients.

Michigan passed a similar law that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found unconstitutional in 2003 since it violated the U.S. Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against unreasonable search. The court said the law would set a dangerous precedent by allowing the government to conduct drug searches for the safety of the public without prior suspicion.

Like Kennley Grant, most people CNN asked outside the office of the Florida Department of Children and Family agreed with the state's new law.

"I think it's good," said Lissie Bryant, who has an adult son who gets benefits. "There are so many people walking around here that are getting welfare that really don't deserve it and they're taking the money and buying drugs."

Several mothers who would not give their names disagreed with the law. Two women used expletives to describe their displeasure with it.

ACLU of Florida, which opposes the law, says it is not surprised welfare recipients agree with drug testing.

"You do what you have to do get the help," said Berek Newton with the ACLU.

Scott recently told CNN's TJ Holmes, "I want to make sure our taxpayers are not subsidizing drug addiction.

"Studies show people who are on welfare are higher users of drugs than people not on welfare," he said.

On CNN's request, the governor's office supplied several studies that showed drug use was higher among welfare recipients.

One document from a public policy brief on substance abuse had statistics from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health: A self-reported survey in 2007 found 20% of women ages 18-49 on welfare reported using illicit drugs compared to 10.3% of women of the same ages not on welfare.

The ACLU of Florida disagrees and cites a 2001 Florida pilot study that looked at drug use among welfare recipients.

Newton said the study was stopped after only a year because it failed. The study found drug use among welfare recipients was equal or less than the general public's drug use, Newton said.

The ACLU said the study found the drug testing program would cost more to run than the state could possibly save by eliminating drug users on welfare.

Florida's ACLU executive director Howard Simon said, ""Once again, this governor has demonstrated his dismissal of both the law and the right of Floridians to personal privacy by signing into law a bill that treats those who have lost their jobs like suspected criminals."

The ACLU has filed suit against the state for requiring all state workers to take a drug and is considering suing the state for drug testing welfare applicants.

Five Florida state Democratic legislatures joined to voice their outrage at the governor for insulting families who have fallen on hard times thanks to the bad economy and for what they called an unconstitutional law.

Welfare recipients who supported the drug test strongly disagreed that welfare applicants should have to pay out of pocket for the test.

The law says those who pass the drug test would be refunded the test cost but those who fail or test positive for drugs would be out the drug tests cost - $10 to $70.

"You can't have a struggling family pay for something they can't afford already – they're asking for your assistance," Kennley Grant said. He believes the state should pay for the drug test.

James S., who receives benefits and asked that his last name not be used, said, "I would ask the state or the governor to reconsider." Not everyone can afford it, he said.

Bryant, however, said," If they got to pay for it out of their own pocket and they really need it, then they will do the right thing."

The ACLU says that's irrelevant, it's illegal.

Newton said, "It's like the government sending you a bill to violate your rights."

Filed under: Florida • Rick Scott
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Steve

    Money in the pockets of the testing companies.. Have DCF administer the tests w/o cost, it simply adds to cost of program administration. Waste of money ( they will only test when "clean" and if they do use drugs, nothing prevents them from using them on the way home after the test)

    June 8, 2011 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  2. Aaron

    It sounds like CNN polled two people. Both agreed with the welfare recipients paying for their own drug tests. With 2 people interviewed, that must be like a .000001% confidence ratio on the poll.

    June 8, 2011 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  3. Howard

    Boy–Talk about adding insult to injury!!!!!!

    June 8, 2011 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  4. Good Law

    This is a good law. I'm all for it. We the taxpayers should not be subsidizing anyone's drug habits. This law will force more personal responsibility.

    June 8, 2011 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  5. Marc Florida

    Another bill aimed at triming down those needing assistance. To add salt on the wound our most vulnerable will have to pay for the test. Next, Scott will be giving a shovel to the dying and sick uninsured to dig their own graves. You got to love the Governor. Florida has come a long way from the successful health and human service policies of the late Governor Chiles.

    June 8, 2011 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  6. Joshua

    THANK GOD!!!! Last week the guy in front of me bought 13 sirloin steaks with food stamps. Then got into his Cadillac Escalade with huge rims and rove away. Ridiculous!!! I use coupons and can't even afford a streak, but yet again don't qualify for food stamps! Makes me angry!

    June 8, 2011 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  7. SR

    Gotta love those Big Government Tea Party types...

    June 8, 2011 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  8. T'sah from Virginia

    Okay – so they test positive when applying for welfare – then what? Do they come back after 30 days and reapply? Then what? Are then randomly checked for the rest of their lives? If they fail the drug test and continue to either STARVE or remain BROKE; they don't have money and decide to "clean" up their act (temporary) – does the state pay for their REHAB?

    You can't get BLOOD from a TURNIP!!! This is going to end up costing the state of Florida MORE MONEY than what it is worth!! Slick RICK gets something out of this $$$$$!!!

    June 8, 2011 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  9. Chredon

    Gee, I wonder why this article ignores the fact that Gov. Rick Scott's wife works for and gets income from the biggest drug testing firm in Florida and stands to make millions of dollars if both state employees and welfare recipients are forced to pay for drug tests? Folks, this is Rick Scott reverting to his pre-political games of fleecing the Florida medical system for personal profit. Only now, he's making it legal so that he doesn't have to pay another $2 billion fine. You hire a fox to guard to the hen house, and this is what happens.

    June 8, 2011 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  10. NameSteve

    If the government will give me money, show me the cup!!!! And contrary to the anti-American coalition of lawlessness unfettered....yep, aclu....I actually WORKED for the welfare and food stamp programs where I was offered sex, booze, drugs and even food to approve unqualified applicants.

    June 8, 2011 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  11. Marty, FL

    The real issue is who will pay for this new, Big government program that Scott implements while our state suffers budget crisis. The costs will far exceed any savings.

    And it seems no coicidence that Rick Scott has been affiliated with a company that administers these drug tests, coming from a politician who once oversaw the worst Medicare fraud in US history.

    June 8, 2011 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  12. P

    Most jobs require a background check, credit check & drug test – Why is that such a controversy for those collecting welfare? Uh, backwards much?

    June 8, 2011 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  13. What About The Children?

    What happens to the children of poverty stricken parents who use drugs and now won't go for welfare for fear of losing their kids altogether if they do? Who is going to feed those kids? How do those kids get help seperate from their parents? Is something set up for them? If not, I guess the state will end up having to take in all those kids. Sounds fair.

    June 8, 2011 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  14. James

    Asking people who are applying for monetary assistance to fork up a fee upfront is going to prevent some qualified people from getting benefits. They should offer an option for a free test with the caveat that if you fail it, you aren't allowed to apply again for a period of time and you don't get another freebie.

    As for ACLU's Simon, if this is treating peple as suspected criminals, then employers screening job applicants is doing the same thing. I don't see them crying about that, likely because they don't want to get stuck working with a bunch of crackheads.

    June 8, 2011 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  15. Alan

    Let's see a bill to require all executives of the state's vendors take and pass a drug test. Require them to post a bond equal to the amount of their contact, and forfeit the bond if they fail the test. We are asking folks who have no money at all to pay up front for a drug test, only fair to require state vendors to face a proportional risk.

    June 8, 2011 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  16. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    This guy is a loser with no agenda. What will he figure out what to do next.

    June 8, 2011 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  17. Steve in Denver

    Too bad there isn't a medicare fraud test for the governor of Florida.

    June 8, 2011 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |

    Way to go Governor. YOU ROCK.

    June 8, 2011 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  19. Former Republican, now an Independent

    I don't have a problem with requiring drug tests for welfare recipients, but if the state of Florida is going to require it, then the state of Florida should pay for it. I don't particularly like the requirement some states are mandating for a picture ID in order to vote (as I believe it is a republican attempt to further limit people's rights), but if this takes effect, then those states should see that every citizen has an absolutely trouble free path to obtain one and that state should also pay all related expenses.

    June 8, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  20. Shaun

    This would be a great Idea if it was attached to some kind of rehab program but the way it is set up now ill cost the state more money. These people are not going to magically become law abiding citizens now that they are not on welfare. They are not going to all of sudden say now that i can't get welfare i have to go get a job. the state will pay for the care for these people one way or another!!

    June 9, 2011 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  21. Peter s

    Like Rick Scott have passed moral test with flying colors!! Only in Florida this guy can cut it!!

    June 9, 2011 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  22. Bill from GA

    Two questions:
    Are there drinks that, when consumed, hide evidence of drugs, making the tests unreliable?
    Does the drug company owned by the governor benefit from selling these drug tests?

    June 9, 2011 01:05 am at 1:05 am |

    Rick Scott,.. at the center of the biggest Medicare fraud in American history,.. ripped off the government and taxpayers out of billion of dollars,.. now all of a sudden he has become a crusader for taxpayer protection. Once a crook,.. always a crook. Floridians need to have their heads examined, for electing this guy governor,.. but then again, Scott probably owns the clinics doing the examinations.

    June 9, 2011 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  24. David

    Feel for the people on prescription meds, that have HIV, etc. where is their privacy? Dangerous precident, is the state going to store and use the persons DNA for other purposes, i.e. crime investigation?

    June 9, 2011 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  25. C. Howe Yulikit

    I liked this guy much better when he was the lead singer for Midnight Oil.

    June 9, 2011 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
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