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Temporary Ban on Florida Welfare Drug Testing Upheld

By: Whitney Ray Email
By: Whitney Ray Email

Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A federal appeals court has upheld a temporary ban on a law requiring drug testing of Florida welfare recipients.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Tuesday ruled that a lower court was right to temporarily halt enforcement of the drug-testing program. The opinion said the state of Florida hadn't shown a "substantial special need" for such mandatory drug testing.

Florida officials have argued that testing is necessary because it would deter drug use by those receiving welfare. Opponents say drug testing as a condition of getting welfare benefits is an unconstitutional search and seizure.

Tuesday's opinion was authored by Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett. She was the first woman to sit on the Florida Supreme Court and was the state's first female Chief Justice.


By: Whitney Ray

Following a judge’s order to halt the drug testing of welfare recipients, the state saw a 10 percent increase in the number of people applying for cash assistance. So, were drug users waiting for the tests to end before applying for welfare? Whitney Ray investigates.

From July of 2011 through October, 4-thousand Floridians were asked to take drug tests. The reason, they received government assistance and lawmakers didn’t want state money spent on drugs. The ACLU called the tests unconstitutional and sued.

“It turns out to be unconstitutional. The numbers don’t show its need. And in fact it shows it costs the state more than it saves the state,” said Simon.

The tests were supposed to save the state money. But according to this report of the results, less than three percent, or about 100 of the people tested, failed. Those people were kicked out of the cash assistance program, but everyone who passed was reimbursed 30 dollars for their test.

Over three months, the tests cost taxpayers 45-thousand dollars. A judge ordered the state to stop the tests. One month later, the Department of Children and Families saw a 10 percent spike in people applying for cash assistance.

“The judge found the drug testing unconstitutional. Those people were then automatically available to receive benefits.”

The December spike isn’t proof-positive evidence welfare recipients are using more drugs. Joe Follick, a DCF Spokesman says it’s normal for the state to see an increased need for cash assistance when holiday shopping jobs end.

“Seasonal employment affects that, where more people have seasonal employment during the holiday season,” said Follick.

Statewide it’s estimated that seven percent of people use drugs. That’s more than double the amount of people who failed the state’s drug test. Forty people, or one percent of those selected for a drug test, cancelled their appointment. There’s no data on why they cancelled, but since the drug testing has stopped some of them have reapplied and been granted cash assistance.


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