Tallahassee, FL - August 24, 2011 --
About a thousand Floridians who receive temporary cash assistance have been drug tested since July. A little more than twenty failed, far fewer than expected.
The Department of Children and Families says it’s too early to tell if the 2.5 percent failure rate will hold steady. Some recipients are appealing the results.
“As far as people testing positive, just because you do test positive there is still an appeals process here and that’s why the numbers are still fluid,” said DCF Spokesman Joe Follick.
But even if the rate doubles it will still be well below the eight percent drug use rate of the general public.
Some lawmakers who voted for the new drug testing law told stories of drug addicted welfare recipients, but when pushed for proof, the couldn’t produce any statistics.
Karen Woodall, the director of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy says the law picks on the poor.
“There was never any actually evidence presented,” said Woodall.
91-thousand Floridians are on temporary cash assistance. Many of them are kids. Only the head of the household is tested. Recipients who fail, lose benefits for a year and the state suggests drug treatment programs, but doesn’t help with the cost.
“If there’s no money to help pay, people who are qualifying for the TANF program do not have the money to get that help,” said Woodall.
The average pay out is 240 dollars a month. The state picks up the tab for people who pass the test and spends extra time and staff reviewing the results. It’s unclear at this point if the new law will save the state any money in the long run.
Sources tell us, a suit against the state to block the testing will be filed soon.
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