Welfare drug testing is nothing new. It has been causing debate for a while now, as we see drug testing for welfare recipients legislation being introduced in states across the country. Florida has certainly been one of the key states in this debate.
The debate has taken another turn, as Rep. Paige Kreegel claimed last week that about 800 refused to take the welfare drug test in Florida, and the assumption should be that “a person would (only) refuse to take a urine drug test because they were afraid of being caught with drugs”.
How valid is this number?
While only 83 failed the drug test, if you include the 800 or so that refused to take the test, then “all together there’s 1,000 people out there on drugs. Nine out of ten of them are smart enough not to take the drug test”, according to Kreegel.
The drug test is the final requirement to receive temporary cash assistance, or TANF as it’s called, after the agency verifies an applicant’s income, background, child support and ID. Applicants pay an average of $35 for the test up front and are reimbursed by the state if they pass.
Although sources are not sure where Kreegel learned that 80 or so people failed the test, or that 800 or so people declined to take it, though he said it was from a newspaper story. Several stories were found that measured the requirement’s effectiveness throughout its tenure, but they didn’t use those numbers.
Kreegel’s figure of about 80 failed tests is not far from the tally over four months of practice, according to the Department of Children and Families, which administers the TANF program. He actually underestimated it.
Of the 4,086 applicants who scheduled drug tests, 108 people failed their tests, a fail rate of 2.6 percent, according to DCF. About 1 percent of applicants, or 42, scheduled tests but canceled them.
About 96.3 percent of applicants passed the screenings. The high pass rate means the state paid out more than $100,000 in reimbursements to applicants who passed over the four-month period.
Aside from the obvious, why would people refuse the drug test?
“There is no way to determine why someone did not take the test,” said Joe Follick, DCF spokesman. “We did not have the capacity or legal authority to survey each applicant’s decision-making process.”
They might not have enough money to pay for the tests up front and wait for state reimbursement. They might find a job in the meantime and not need benefits. They might leave the state for work or for personal reasons. They might qualify for other benefits that make them ineligible for the program. They might be unable to find a nearby testing center.
As you can see, there are various other reasons people may wish to not take a drug test. However, this doesn’t deter supporters of the legislation. What do you think? Should welfare recipients be drug tested?