Only last week we saw Missouri state senators giving final approval to a bill that would require those on welfare to submit to drug testing, and it seems that Florida is following suit. The Florida Senate approved a measure that will require all recipients of the state program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to pass a drug test before receiving benefits, and while such a move faces the same criticism as proposals across the country, the overwhelming view is that this is the right move.
As the Florida Independent previously reported, Florida tried to drug-test welfare recipients 10 years ago, but a pilot program found it was a waste of money. This new proposal would requires TANF applicants to pay for the drug tests, but recipients who pass the drug test would be reimbursed for the cost of the test. The obvious intention of such testing is to save taxpayer money, but this assumption was placed under great scrutiny by the CLASP report “Random Drug Testing of TANF Recipients is Costly, Ineffective and Hurts Families”. The report states:
“Mandatory drug testing for parents applying for or receiving assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program has been proposed repeatedly over the past few years. Legislators in at least 27 states have proposed suspicionless drug testing with some even extending it to recipients of other public benefits as well, such as unemployment insurance, medical assistance and food assistance. Proposals for mandatory drug testing of TANF recipients are based on stereotypes and not evidence. Proponents often claim that drug testing will save money; however, this is based on a false assumption that many applicants will be denied benefits. Random testing is a costly, flawed and inefficient way of identifying recipients in need of treatment. Better alternatives exist and are already being implemented to address drug abuse among TANF beneficiaries and ultimately reduce their barriers to work. Moreover, universal random drug testing may well be unconstitutional.”
Without doubt it is some quite harsh criticism, but seems to echo much of what opponents to welfare drug testing have been saying for some time. As more and more states start to introduce this sort of legislation, there is no doubt opponents will jump on any failures and use them in their arguments for ending these sort of programs. With the pilot program in Florida failing ten years ago, it will be interesting to see which direction it will go this time.