Florida Governor Signs Welfare Drug Screening Bill

Florida Governor Signs Welfare Drug Screening Bill

Gov. Rick Scott has signed a bill requiring welfare applicants to undergo drug testing to qualify for benefits. Other lawmakers say the measure unfair, illegal and a waste of money. They plan to fight it.

Published June 3, 2011

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill this week that would require adults applying for assistance under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to undergo drug testing. In addition, applicants would be responsible for paying for the cost of the testing, which would be reimbursed when they begin receiving aid. People who fail the screening can designate another adult to receive the benefits on behalf of their children.


Scott said that it is “unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction.” But Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown and other members of the state’s congressional delegation are outraged that the governor would initiate such a program that they believe invades individuals’ privacy and would cost taxpayers money at a time when the state government is cutting jobs, teachers and student sports programs.


“The maximum amount that a person can get is $300-something dollars for a family of four and you’re going test them? We have one of the worst records of child protection services violations and not protecting children, yet he laid off 500 people from the agency,” said Brown. “He’s baiting and switching. He ran on increasing jobs and has done just the opposite in every single category.”


Brown argued that instead of addressing more important issues, such as job creation, Scott is inventing a problem that could cost the state $150,000 per month. She has discussed the matter with various groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, and said they plan to take the issue to court. In addition, Brown said, similar measures have been ruled unconstitutional and it is unconscionable to her that Scott would invest time and valuable resources in such a program.


Rep. Alcee Hastings, also a member of the Florida congressional delegation, wonders where the governor will draw the line.


“How about people on Medicaid? Do you want them drug tested? Do you want the Medicare people tested? That’s taxpayer money,” he said. “There’s an unfairness. He’s privatizing prisons, which affects jobs in the state. This is the governor who said he was going to put people to work. I don’t understand how this program is going to benefit Floridians at all.”

(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Written by Joyce Jones


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