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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  • by tally on Apr 22, 2012 at 01:01 PM
    Our state legislators are not drug tested. Contractors who contract with the state are not drug tested, unless it is a safety issue. Either everyone lines up for the drug test or no one. It's not consitutional because it discriminates against a class of people, and it's a huge waste of money.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 20, 2012 at 10:04 AM
    Perhap the sorry parents a.k.a. baby daddy or baby mama or the family should take care of the children instead of the taxpayer. Feeding the stupid only begets more stupids.
    • reply
      by AD on Apr 20, 2012 at 05:08 PM in reply to
    • reply
      by tally on Apr 22, 2012 at 12:56 PM in reply to
      But God forbid we allow the "baby mama" free contraception or an abortion. Because every life is sacred until that baby is born, and then you're on your own.
  • by proud republican on Apr 20, 2012 at 08:05 AM
    preach it math teach! thank u for the break down. rep's should continue running the state and hopefully soon the country, we need to get things in order. NO MORE FREEBIES!
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 20, 2012 at 08:57 AM in reply to proud republican
      No more freebies...then you fix the potholes in the roads you drive, call you ex-con cousin instead of law enforcement when you get in trouble, pay for you vote (yes, there are fees in some countries, as well as fines when you don't), and don't look for help from the government when a mob turns up at your house.
      • reply
        by another proud repub on Apr 20, 2012 at 09:56 AM in reply to
        Just like a lib to spin a statement. You know he/she meant welfare, food stamps and the like that only benefit the irresponsible dead beats. Not services that benefit all citizens. Go back in your cave.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 20, 2012 at 07:22 AM
    Whose on drugs? The governor who dug himself a hole or the welfare applicants who waited for him to fall in it. Seems to me the applicants have a better grip on reality than the governor...is he on drugs?
  • by gaboy Location: ga on Apr 20, 2012 at 04:55 AM
    welfare should be done away with
  • by Tea Party Republican on Apr 19, 2012 at 02:57 PM
    Ya'll need to shut up and pee in the cup !! Every Floridian should have to, women, men and children A DRUG FREE STATE AND ALCOHOL, Ie.. BEER,WINE... free!!!
    • reply
      by Short Term Memory on Apr 20, 2012 at 05:09 AM in reply to Tea Party Republican
      Alcohol free? You obviously do not recall a little thing called prohibition! If a percentage of society want a substance weather it is legal or not then those people will get it at any cost. If you go back to the way it was you just gave violent offenders another reason to protect a huge profit, much like scheduled drugs are today. As far as testing, i have no problem with anyone who holds a job being able to provide a sample to a company who claim to be or promote a "Drug-Free Workplace".
  • by Ellen Location: Tallahassee on Apr 19, 2012 at 01:18 PM
    Look, these cash recipients are primarily extremely poor single women with children. The get an average cash assistance of $250 a month. Many of them don't have cars. Most of them don't do drugs. The drug tests aren't offered to them in their homes and it costs them time and money to go and take them in addition to the cost of the tests. They need the little bit of money they get for rent, utilities, medicine, kids supplies and clothes. State staff are in their lives already and if they are heavy into drug use likely they will be spotted and frequently children removed. Most women who are heavy drug users would not apply for cash assistance because they don't want the state snooping into their lives. Those type make money through drug sales and prostitution. That is not most of the ones who are getting cash assistance. The law is not worth the effort as it accomplishes little.
  • by LeRoy Location: southside on Apr 19, 2012 at 12:55 PM
    Most people overlook a simple fact. The ones on drugs, etc. are not getting the aid but their girlfriends (babys momma) or auntie, or mother or some other easy touch for the cash (they know how to convert cards to cash). If the ais is started for anyone less than 65, it should be reduced each month until it goes away that is plenty of incentive and time to get to work and save of handing out freebies.
  • by Jill Location: Leon County on Apr 19, 2012 at 11:49 AM
    @ Welfare creates Slavery - Your name must be Johnny, 'cuz you sure can't spell. Seems ironic that those who are the most critical of others are guilty of the same things. You misspelled fascination; populace; empirical. So, before you accuse others of not being able to spell, Johnny, make sure you know how yourself! Maybe you should try being a Democrat - they often attend college.
    • reply
      by HMA on Apr 20, 2012 at 12:55 PM in reply to Jill
      Democrats often become Republicans after college.
  • by Math Major on Apr 19, 2012 at 10:24 AM
    For the mathematically challenged: Average Monthly cost of welfare is $240. Let’s assume you fail the drug test and you’re off the rolls for a year so that’s $2,880 savings. If there is a 3% failure rate, it saves us lowly taxpayers 3x$2880 or $8640 per 100 tested. It costs us $30 x 97 to test the rest or $2,910. So I’m saving almost $5,730 per 100 tested. How’s this a money loser? Now add to that, 10% who drop out of the program because they know they can’t pass the test. I don’t know how many people a 10% drop is, but let’s assume it’s 100 families to whom we’re not paying welfare. That alone is a monthly savings of $24,000 with no drug testing cost. Wake up people. This program is a winner from an economic standpoint although our intrepid investigative reporter and Mr. Simon, ACLU representative, cant’ figure that out!
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 19, 2012 at 12:12 PM in reply to Math Major
      Hey math major, you should know to take caution when trying to get a "correct" answer when the data you are using are estimated, averaged, or just out right made up. Plus you're missing variables, such as the staff time to administer this program. Also, "cost" is not the same as "price", but you'll that in Econ 101.
    • reply
      by Ellen on Apr 19, 2012 at 02:01 PM in reply to Math Major
      You are the one that is leaving out major parts of the equation. You assume that people getting cash assistance would only be drug tested once in a year. Wrong! Some of them may be tested every month. NOW do the math and you will see how expensive it is. Additionally, you assume all these people will be on cash assistance for a year which is also wrong. Further, there is administrative overhead that is not considered in the drug test cost like overseeing the program, keeping up with and evaluating the statistics, time for case workers who have to tell the people they have to take it and where they can access it and document if the did or did not. Then there is the cost to the 97 % who had to pay for transportation and maybe childcare to go and take the test somewhere and that is not reimbursed. There is a lot more cost to this than your faulty math reveals. And don't assume that people who refused did so because they were not clean; maybe some and maybe some just didn't have the money or the means to go and take the tests. Further, tests are not easily accessible to all geographic areas. It IS a MONEY LOSER and an unnecessary time consumer for staff who have to fool with it on top of everything else they have to do.
      • reply
        by Math Major on Apr 20, 2012 at 10:11 AM in reply to Ellen
        Math Major, also known as Taxpayer, is subjected to random drug testing at his place of employment so I can support sorry people who (per the court ruling)don't have to take a drug test. As for my math, why don't you give us your calculations using your assumptions and see what you come up with. Use numbers in your calculations and not opinions.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 20, 2012 at 07:25 AM in reply to Math Major
      So, Math Major what numbers to you assign to sick and hungry children who are not responsible for their parents behavior...that right, somethings are simply not quantifiable.
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