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Rick Scott's Welfare Drug Testing Law Even Bigger Failure Than Previously Thought

Gov. Rick Scott championed a controversial law that required all recipients of state welfare to submit to drug tests, claiming it saves the state money. We've known for a while now that in fact the program actually cost the state money, but supporters pointed to potential "hidden savings" of potential applicants who decided not to apply because they knew they would fail.

Well, the New York Times dug in and found that that's probably not the case, and the number of applications has remained about the same despite the new law.


The controversial program only ran for four months: from July of 2011 until October 2011 when a court placed an injunction on the policy by claiming that it violated the fourth amendment of the Constitution.

As has been widely reported, only 2.6 percent of applicants failed the test (108 in total, though another 40 opted out of the tests before taking them). The vast majority passed. All applicants are forced to pay for their own drug tests, but the state reimbursed them if they passed. That lead to a $118,140 bill in four months alone.

By the way, the vast majority of people failed because only marijuana was detected.

That bill outnumbered the money that Temporary Assistance for Needy Family welfare funds that would have been doled out to those who failed by $45,780. Nothing new here, but the Times points out that the program had no apparent effect of lowering the amount of applications:

And the testing did not have the effect some predicted. An internal document about Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, caseloads stated that the drug testing policy, at least from July through September, did not lead to fewer cases.

"We saw no dampening effect on the caseload," the document said.

So yeah, it appears that there were no "hidden savings" incurred by the program as there was no noticeable dip in the amount of applicants anyway.


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