Florida Data Shows Welfare Drug Tests Cost More Taxpayer Money, Not Less

Florida state's own data shows that the law requiring drug tests for people seeking welfare benefits did not save the state money, but cost the government an extra $45,780.  Operating under the false presumption that people collecting or seeking welfare do more drugs than the general population, the law and the stereotypes it perpetuates cost the state thousands.

The New York Times reports:

From July through October in Florida — the four months when testing took place before Judge Scriven’s order — 2.6 percent of the state’s cash assistance applicants failed the drug test, or 108 of 4,086, according to the figures from the state obtained by the group. The most common reason wasmarijuana use. An additional 40 people canceled the tests without taking them.

Because the Florida law requires that applicants who pass the test be reimbursed for the cost, an average of $30, the cost to the state was $118,140. This is more than would have been paid out in benefits to the people who failed the test, Mr. Newton said.

As a result, the testing cost the government an extra $45,780, he said.

Utah, Chicago, Missouri, Indiana, Arizona, and Illinois recently passed similar drug test laws that reinforce stereotypes about the poor.  One of many other states proposing drug test measures, Georgia adopted an almost identical law this week.  

“Many states are considering following Florida’s example, and the new data from the state shows they shouldn’t,” Derek Newton, communications director for theAmerican Civil Liberties Union of Florida, told the New York Times, “Not only is it unconstitutional and an invasion of privacy, but it doesn’t save money, as was proposed.”

Despite the law's failure to save money, another mandatory drug test law will soon take effect in Florida:

Last month, Mr. Scott signed into law another drug testing measure, this one permitting state agencies to randomly test up to 10 percent of their employees. The tests can be conducted every 90 days and agencies can fire or discipline employees if they test positive for drugs.

The law, which the civil liberties group said it believes is unconstitutional, takes effect in July. The courts have largely upheld drug testing for workers with public safety jobs.

Read the full New York Times story here.

AlterNet / By Angela Lee

Posted at April 18, 2012, 9:57am

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