Top Menu

Almost 1,600 Welfare Applicants in Florida Decline to Undergo Drug Testing

/By

Almost 1,600 people applying for welfare benefits in Florida have declined to undergo drug testing, which is required by a new state law. According to state officials, less than one percent of the 7,028 welfare applicants who underwent screening tested positive for drugs since the law went into effect in July.

Since so many applicants refused to take a drug test, it is difficult to draw conclusions from these findings, according to the Associated Press. A majority of positive drug tests were for marijuana.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit to challenge the new law. The lawsuit asserts the law’s drug-testing requirement represents an unconstitutional search and seizure.

The Florida law requires applicants to be responsible for the cost of the screening. They can recover the costs if they qualify for assistance. Under the law, applicants who fail the drug screen can designate another person to receive the benefits on behalf of their children. That person must also undergo drug testing.

According to the article, a person who fails the drug test is not eligible for welfare for one year. Passing a drug course can cut that time down to six months. A person who fails a second drug test is ineligible for benefits for three years.

Supporters of the law say it prevents taxpayer money from being spent on drugs. Critics say the cost of the test—$25 to $35—may be too high for some applicants, or they may not be able to easily get to a testing facility.

Florida is one of a growing number of states requiring drug testing for recipients of welfare, food stamps, unemployment and other benefits. Legislators in three dozen states have proposed drug testing this year for people who receive welfare benefits.

28 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Carl
    Carl / May 22, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Looks like the data is being distorted. If 1600 declined to take the test (per the AAP below) , the odds are that they took drugs. Also, 2.6% of
    those that took the test failed (182). So,

    That means to me that (1600+182)/(1600+7028 ) –= 20.65% most likely took drugs/failed the test. Then again, we really dont know why the 1600 refused to taske the test.

    NY TIMES:
    In a four-month period last year when Florida required welfare applicants to undergo drug testing, the program yielded no savings, caught few
    drug users, and did not affect the number of people who applied, The New York Times reports.
    The program was halted after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida sued the state to stop it. The group obtained state data that
    showed from July through October 2011, 2.6 percent of welfare applicants failed the drug test, and an additional 40 people did not take the test.
    Applicants paid the cost of the test, an average of $30. If they passed, the state reimbursed them. The cost to Florida was $118,140 for drug
    tests—more than would have been paid out in benefits to those who failed the test, according to Derek Newton, Communications Director for
    the ACLU of Florida. He said the testing cost the government an additional $45,780.
    Georgia instituted a similar law this week. It is expected to face legal challenges. A number of other states are considering similar measures,
    according to the newspaper.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Almost 1,600 people applying for welfare benefits in Florida have declined to undergo drug testing, which is required by a new state law.
    According to state officials, less than one percent of the 7,028 welfare applicants who underwent screening tested positive for drugs since the
    law went into effect in July.
    Since so many applicants refused to take a drug test, it is difficult to draw conclusions from these findings, according to the Associated Press. A
    majority of positive drug tests were for marijuana.
    The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit to challenge the new law. The lawsuit asserts the law’s drug-testing requirement
    represents an unconstitutional search and seizure.
    The Florida law requires applicants to be responsible for the cost of the screening. They can recover the costs if they qualify for assistance.
    Under the law, applicants who fail the drug screen can designate another person to receive the benefits on behalf of their children. That person
    must also undergo drug testing.
    According to the article, a person who fails the drug test is not eligible for welfare for one year. Passing a drug course can cut that time down to
    six months. A person who fails a second drug test is ineligible for benefits for three years.
    Supporters of the law say it prevents taxpayer money from being spent on drugs. Critics say the cost of the test—$25 to $35—may be too high for
    some applicants, or they may not be able to easily get to a testing facility.

  2. Avatar of jdubhub
    jdubhub / February 19, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Why single out poor people? If you believe that someone getting money from the government be subjected to drug testing, then ANYONE receiving money from the government should be tested. It’s called equal protection under the law. That includes politicians getting our taxpayer dollars, corporations receiving subsidies, and anyone doing business with the government. To use the arguments found here, if they don’t want to be tested, then they have the choice not to accept the money.

    Florida found that 96% of the people on welfare tested PASSED, 2% did not, and 2% declined to be tested. If Florida is so cash-strapped that it has to cut education funding and other programs, why is it spending unnecessary money to make a purely political statement?

  3. Avatar of liz
    liz / February 2, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    I think that every state should start drug testing people who applie for assistance. Most employers now days screen for drugs prior to hiring someone and also do random drug tests. I believe that it should be no difference when applying for assistance. Thats should go for all government programs, food stamps, medical assistance cash assistance housing everything. If they can spend money on dope then they can spend money on things like food rent and dr bills.. We cant keep supporting people who dont want to help themselves. So many people in my community are on welfare and they brag to one another about how much they get each month in welfare but yet they are crack heads and dope feinds. Its just not right. and for those of u who say that there could be children suffering when u take away benifits or deny someone for benifits. Think about what they are going through when there parents are high and drunk and spending all the funds needed to help take care of them ther are all being spent on drugs or alcohol. They shouldnt be in that situation in the first place. Those kids need to be taken and put with other family members who dont test positive for drugs.

  4. Luke Thomas / October 27, 2011 at 11:30 am

    1,600 refused to apply for welfare X $2,000 per month X 12 months = $38,400,000 A YEAR in savings.
    ($2,000 includes food stamps, Medicaid benefits so this is a conservative figure)

  5. Luke Thomas / October 26, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    The ACLU also defended NAMBL-North American MAN-BOY LOVE Association which advocates men having sex with little boys. ACLU = All Criminals Love Us. Does this mean applicants for jobs have a right to sue for applying for a job? Sue for being drug tested? That must mean employers have NO PROTECTION whatsoever for customers and their employees from drug maniacs who will not hesitate to hurt or kill them because they are using dope.

  6. Avatar of Luke Thomas
    Luke Thomas / October 26, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    The only people who object to urinating in a cup is if you have something to hide. As a condition of employment when I applied I had to be drug tested. Just about all of them do that. I can be drug tested at any time. I have no problem with that since I don’t use dope. I would rather have that implemented which gives me a sense of security that my fellow co-workers are not drug freaks who will probably end up killing someone. I think our tax money should NEVER be spent on patronizing the Drug Cartel.

  7. Avatar of Railene
    Railene / October 17, 2011 at 11:09 am

    As a person who was a union laborer for 20 years,WE had to take preemployment drug tests and random drug tests. So should the people we are supporting. I believe all states should have drug testing for the people who are recieving welfare. It is only fair, people who work have to do it, so should people who don’t work.

  8. Jamie / October 17, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Perhaps those “refusing” are doing what’s necessary to be clean and are applying at a later date. If so, the policy is having multiple positive effects.

  9. Sandra / October 16, 2011 at 2:37 am

    Poverty is growing all the time in America, and fewer and fewer people qualify for food stamps and other assistance as more and more restrictive and punitive measures are put in place against poor people in general, including families, but particularly against poor people who use drugs. Hopeless people are expected to use alcohol, though. Offering “on request” drug and alcohol treatment instead of such a punitive program that breaks up families in a time like this would be more effective in reducing drug use among those receiving government assistance.

    The big question is whether this is unconstitutionally arbitrary search? Do those who receive aid and still live below the poverty line retain constitutional rights and freedoms, or must they yield them in order to feed or house their children? And how is someone who needs assistance going to come up with the testing fee?

  10. billinsandiego / October 14, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Hmmm… Over 7,000 tested and only about 70 tested positive for drugs. Those that didn’t test probably couldn’t afford the test or find a place to get tested. So that means that the Florida State Legislature, with about 160 in House and Senate, probably has more members on drugs that welfare applicants

  11. Carlos / October 14, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    If this is a sample of the opinion of this Florida Law, be careful of myth development which is so popular every time that alcoholism and substance use becomes issue in the media and in the laws. Policy making can be a lot more harmful than our “solutions”.
    I could here the stereotyping and sigma developing as I read your opinion. I could almost read that this are large majorities of people, that they obviously do not need the food stamp or their welfare check because they smoke one joint or had a drink over the week end. Let all be careful what we are saying and what we imply. Remember also that children maybe involved in some cases, and I can see a lot of people falling thru the cracks when we rush to conclusions. It is a lot more prudent to slow down in cases like this, than to create policies that later will be difficult to change.
    I have a tendency to be prudent like Jeff. Not only be “deem” worthy of help, but worthy of saving. That is why I am a harm reductionist by nature, even though I have known myself to have been part of the harm making machinery at one time. This “war on drugs” attitude, this idea that they are all doing it, etc. Let’s be careful what it that they media are making impressions upon us is. Remember that spectacular news sales lots of newspaper and lots of time watching television.

  12. Joshua / October 14, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    what is amazing to me is that people can read about this issue and not be appalled at the blatant violation of the 4th ammendment that it is. the government is targeting the poor for searches without a warrant, or even any reasonable suspicion of illegal behavior. this is how freedom dies.

  13. Jeff / October 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Amazing how some posters seem to think because “I knew someone one time” that translates to everyone everywhere. Misguided at best and damaging and dangerous at best. Welfare programs should not in the business of enforcement. We have systemic mechanisms for that and to tie benefits to assistance means we only provide those benefits to “those we deem worthy”. That is dangerous territory for society as a whole to be treading. Who gets to “deem” today? What about tomorrow? Will we suddenly “deem” someone else tomorrow as not worthy of help? Simply because we can do a thing does mean we “should” do a thing. Why such a punitive approach? I see no such program saying a positive test will mandate drug treatment but also keep the assistance available? Why not? Because we’ve become a society all about control of others we deem “less than us”. If they won’t behave as we want, let’s make them behave? We as professional social workers have a duty to help those in need not simply to deny that help based on behaviors we may not agree with. You work with a client where they are, not where you think they should be.

  14. Avatar of drug counselor
    drug counselor / October 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    It may be difficult for SOME peope to get to the drug testing facility, but you better be sure that they would make it a priority to make it if their check were being held there. Also, I’ve seen the food stamp holders to into the store on the first of the month and buy a bunch of meat and come outside and sell it out of their cars! Typically a NICE CAR! Sometimes I wish I would have learned how to work the system instead of going to college and WORKING HARD! lol

  15. Jason / October 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I had a roommate once who spent his foodstamps on rent and then he spent his own money to purchase and drink about 12 beers a day. I imagine far more public money is being spent on alcohol than on illegal drugs.

  16. Avatar of Robert Lee castro
    Robert Lee castro / October 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I approve of the testing and think Texas should adopt it as well. The cost could be lowered by finding a lab willing to do a ten panel drug screen cheaper(we pay our lab $5.00 and charge a $10.00 collection fee), and the collectors need to be trained as well. Most labs will train collectors free if they get a large enough contract and any states welfare applicants should be large enough.Twice a month I see people selling the use of their food stamp card for fifty cents on the dollar outside of a major chain store in Houston.You go in get what you want and then meet them at the checkout and they pay with their card and you give them one half of the total in cash.

  17. Joshua / October 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Being asked to take a drug test by your employer, or labor union, is an entirely seperate thing from being required to do so by the government. and as a person who has been employed for the last 17 years, I have never been asked to take a drug test. so your argument that people with jobs have to take drug tests doesn’t really apply.

  18. Luke Thomas / October 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Excuse me? But State and Federal laws also apply for employment. Ever hear of the EEOC? Employment laws? Your “argument” that employment is separate is null and void. Because welfare applicants CHOOSE-voluntarily-to APPLY for a government pay check. We tax payers have a right to have a device (drug test screen) to help ensure the Drug Cartel isn’t being paid by our tax payers’ monies.

  19. Avatar of rerowan
    rerowan / November 9, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    In response to your calculations, Mr. Thomas, federal benefits such as “food stamps” and Medicaid are not affected by the state law. The average cost of a family receiving the state-provided Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits is $253/mo, according to the Palm Beach Post.

    Another fiscal consideration in determining the efficiency of the policy should include the cost of reimbursing qualified applicants for drug test, $25-35 each. This one-time cost adds up quickly, given the passing rates of those who consent to the test.

    When ~2% of applicants tested positive for drug use, and marijuana use at that (CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-20124896/judge-blocks-fla.s-new-welfare-drug-testing-law/), the degree to which the safety/benefit is “reasonably related” to the nature/cost of the search gets pretty questionable.

    On a fundamental level, the questionable status of this law’s constitutionality presents the costs that come with justifying its status in court. We don’t need to refer to numbers to know that legal fees are not cheap. And this law isn’t an easy one to defend.

  20. Avatar of jacque
    jacque / November 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    When it is my hard earned tax paying dollars that help support people on welfare, absolutly, they should be drug tested to be able to recieve any benifits. Far too many people will not get out and work and use their foodstamp money for drugs. As I see it, its a choice people have to make, you want food stamps, you get drug tested. The alternitive is…. get a job. and just to be clear I am not talking about the lagit people who need a little help while going to school to better themself. I am referring to the people that abuse the system

  21. Avatar of Neo
    Neo / January 5, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    No one is required to sign up for food stamps and then being subjected to a drug test, you don’t want the “search”, as you termed it, don’t come with your hand out for free stuff.

  22. Avatar of Tony Waters
    Tony Waters / January 4, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    So what you are saying, Jeff, is that you would rather Florida use its funds to support addiction instead. And as a social worker, you should already know that you can only help those who want to help themselves. How is a “free ride” to support addiction helpful? Do you give your clients money to buy dope directly from your pocket? I doubt it. But your tax money WOULD pay for their addiction, if it weren’t for this program. besides, its a 30 day test. Get clean and pass; is it really THAT hard?

  23. Avatar of Nadine
    Nadine / February 13, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Are you serious? If you are a social worker then you should know that giving welfare to people using drugs is just enabling them. This is what is called a paradox if they hit bottom and decide to change thier life not only will they not apply for welfare they will go back to school or just get a job to support themselves. If we as taxpayers are paying them to use drugs then we are contributing to the problem not giving a solution.

  24. Sandra / January 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Obviously you have never needed foodstamps, rent assistance, TANF, or Aid to Families with Dependent Children. If you think that there is enough money in any of these checks or vouchers to cover the cost of food or rent for a month, let alone live in idle luxury, you are living in a little dream world of superiority. And yes, it is that hard to get help for drug addiction–beds in detox are not easy to find, and treatment for the indigent is probably no better where you live than here. That is one big difference between those who have to take “workplace drug testing” and those welfare layabouts the politicians resent paying for–those who cannot find work or cannot work are easy scapegoats in hard times

    When you discount the degrading treatment of the head of a struggling household paying to pee in a cup, the Florida taxpayers are out $25 unnecessary dollars for the 98+% of applicants who qualify for welfare. We manage to screen out a little more than 1%, mostly marijuana smokers, by this expensive program. None of the poor people who cannot survive without cigarettes or booze and will starve to get them are disqualified. This program is punitive, will cost taxpayers money to defend, and just doesn’t give value for money (like the “War on Drugs” it just doesn’t work).

  25. Nadine / February 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    It is not costing more. Because the people that would normally be getting welfare will not apply now because they know they will not pass a test, so right there money is saved and too many people in this country minimize marijuana, that drug is the great demotivator. And I am someone who raised three children on my own with no child support. I worked two jobs if I had too. And the careers are the jobs being battled for, not jobs. And there is still plenty of school loan money to better self with.

  26. Avatar of Brad
    Brad / March 8, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Sandra – Read the article again. 1,600 out of
    7,208 applicants declined to test. That is 23%!
    While there is no proof that these 1,600 may have tested positive in some form, one can only apply a reasonable conclusion that a much higher percentage than 1% would indeed have, thus increasing the failure rate and reducing the amount of benefits paid.

  27. Avatar of Dawn Williams
    Dawn Williams / April 30, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    So many recipients sell/trade their benefits for illegal drugs. Many also receive low cost prescription medications and sell those on the street as well. It is a vicious cycle and I am all for Texas adopting some strict laws. I also believe that any woman who is on welfare should be required to have a 5 year birth control implant preventing them from becoming pregnant while receiving benefits. In most cases, many children are born to these families who are already struggling financially and we reward them with yet-More money! I believe all individuals who receive benefits should under-go parenting classes, job skill training, and complete active job searches. This is something that could go on and on but I won’t continue. It’s time that we stop the free handouts and offer hand ups instead. Some people truly need the assistance and it’s usually a temporary endeavor. But to the career oriented recipients, it’s time to quit enabling them.

  28. Avatar of david
    david / August 11, 2012 at 2:27 am

    Actually the real issue is that drugs are entering our nation. The way you stop this, is to stop the supply of drugs. This will stop our drug abuse problem. How you do this? You prosecute bankers that have been caught laundering drug money, enforce the borders by inspecing every single car, boat, truck, shipping container! It will never happen because out corrupt politicians, and federal drug task force are involved in the narcotics business. Go read history, CIA DEA have been caught flying drugs into our country, and nobody does anything about it!

Leave a Reply

Please read our comment policy and guidelines before you submit a comment. Your email address will not be published. Thank you for visiting Drugfree.org


eight + 8 =

Disclaimer:
Reproduction in whole or in part of this publication is strictly prohibited without prior consent. Photographic rights remain the property of Join Together and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. For reproduction inquiries, please e-mail jointogether@drugfree.org.