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In the News: Rick Scott's Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients Proves Costly and Ineffective

The state of Florida started requiring urine tests back in 2011 for welfare applicants and state workers to screen for drugs, which did not last long but has a continued effect on the states financial spending as politicians fight for it’s reinstatement. The program only operated for around 3 months before federal courts halted the progression of these policies on grounds that the program was in violation of Florida residents constitutional rights. Florida Governor Rick Scott has been pushing this envelope unsuccessfully since the program passed, quickly prompting a lawsuit filed on behalf of a Navy veteran who applied for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits as a single father while working to complete his college degree.

Bleeding the Budget

Governor Scott argued that drug testing welfare applicants would save the state money. However according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Governor Scott and his administration have collectively spent $400,000 of Florida’s budget in attempt to defend the Welfare Recipients Drug Testing programs he has been trying to establish.  In response to a records request from Florida ACLU, the governor’s administration disclosed it had spent over $381,654 trying to appeal for these programs. Has this program become not just questionable but unreasonably costly for the population of Florida?

The Results

In just the few months the state actively screened all those seeking aid under the TANF program for possible drug use, the rate of positive results was so astoundingly low, it is estimated the cost of the materials for the tests and to administer them likely offset the savings of denied benefits drastically, which compels citizens to wonder what logic Governor Scott has based his theory of saving the state money. Is it safe to say that too much taxpayer money was already wasted on creating and enforcing these programs, and now nearly another half a million dollars is being put into defending the program?

According to The Courts

According to Shalini Goel Agarwal- Staff Attorney for the Florida ACLU several courts have heard the case presented by the Florida governor claiming that the state has the power to force people to submit bodily fluids for government inspection. The Scott administration recently filed a 72 page brief to an appeals court in Atlanta in attempt to over-rule a lower court’s decision that demanding the urine of applicants to the TANF falls under the category of unreasonable search as protected under the U.S. Constitution, being that without suspicion of wrong-doing these drug scenes are being wrongfully administered.

In recent months many other state Republicans have also pursued possibly drug testing welfare applicants, but following the Scott’s embarrassing losses in federal court, they opted for suspicion-based testing programs rather than testing everyone who asks for help. Scott’s latest welfare testing appeal is still pending, but there should be no surprise if this also fails to pass. A lower court ruled that blanket urinalysis of state workers, meanwhile, violated their constitutional right to privacy. The Supreme Court refused to even hear Scott’s appeal of that ruling in April. Governor Scott’s spokesman John Tupps has recently defended the testing system, stating-

“Governor Scott will continue to fight for Florida taxpayers, who deserve a drug-free state workforce, and for Florida’s children, who deserve to live in drug-free homes.”

The only question is, how much is this costing the people of the Florida workforce and the impoverished families of Florida in what seems to be a less than effective way of regulating financial assistance?

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