If you are planning on filing for financial assistance from the state of Florida, be prepared to get tested- for drugs, that is.

Republican Governor Rick Scott, who campaigned on lowering Florida’s 9% unemployment rate and getting residents back to work, is receiving backlash for a new law requiring adult applying for cash benefits from Florida’s welfare system to undergo drug testing first. Every person tested will have to foot the bill for the drug test, but Scott, who signed the law by executive order, points out that for those who pass a full refund will be issued in their next cash payment from the state.

The law will affect the 113,000 adults who rely on assistance from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.  The law will only affect their cash payments, not their ability to obtain food stamps.

According to Scott, the bill is  “the right thing for citizens of this state that need public assistance. We don’t want to waste tax dollars. And also, we want to give people an incentive to not use drugs.”  That drug habits should not be supported with taxpayer dollars is a logic that on its own seems fair enough to most.  So what’s with the uproar?

The problem though is that the law does not test all Florida residents receiving aid from the state but instead targets low-income ones alone.  Critics say that behind the law is a stereotyping of all welfare recipients, one that would never be applied to say small business owners seeking the states financial assistance.

The Florida branch of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida says they will be attempting to challenge the constitutionality of the law in the coming weeks.  They are taking particular issue with the fact that Department of Social Services will be turning over positive drug tests to the states’ child services agency to open a possible child abuse investigation against parents.

Florida’s Department of Child and Families has been quick to dismiss claims that the policy could break up families.  Their spokesperson, Joe Follick said in an interview with Tampa Bay Online:

“We’re going to assess the needs of the family. Our goal is always to keep families together, and give them the tools to stay together.”

If DCF finds that children are in immediate danger, the department will remove them, he said. But “this is not intended to be, nor will it be, a mechanism for children to be removed only because of a positive drug test.”


Speaking on the policy, the ACLU’s associate legal director, Maria Kayanan said:

“The abuse hotline is intended to protect Florida’s children from neglect or abuse — not from a positive drug test. When you’re talking about a search that is unconstitutional to begin with, to then use the result of that search to insert the arm of the state into a family and potentially tear that family apart is unconscionable.”

The ACLU filed their suit against Governor Scott on July 1st.  They are using a similar law overturned in Michigan as precedent to prove the Florida law is unconstitutional.

What do you think of the Florida law requiring welfare recipient to face drug testing?  Is it valid or discriminatory?  Weigh in Clutchettes and gents- share your thoughts!

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  • keyz

    This is a problem because it only targets people of lower income, EVERYONE getting assistance should have to pass the drug test!

  • Rakel

    I think this new policy makes sense if all individuals and groups seeking public assistance in Florida have to go through it. But if it’s just certain groups then that is a problem.

  • oknow

    i see how some ppl can have problems w/it but there are too many ppl applying for gov’t assistance and not doing what they are suppose to be doing.. not paying the bills, buying for the children, keeping food in the house, or selling their foodstamps.. having clean urine doesn’t mean this will change but what happens to the ppl who need it whose urine is dirty.. what will they do now to get by?! that’s what i’m afraid of..

    • fedup

      Any money will stop but if children are involved then a family member or friend will be assigned to handle the food stamp card. It’s all about not being able to use taxpayers money to support drug habit but still be able to feed the children..

      @ Fox I get Social Security and I don’t have a problem on being drug tested.. Bring it on but I know I won’t pass cause I take a lot of legal drugs..

  • Fox

    It just sounds like they’re trying to trim some funds from this particular state budget line item. This is a way to save money without looking like the “bad guys” by cutting other services.

    Test the people getting SSI and Disability too. Don’t just test the welfare recips. Drug tests don’t bother me, but they should test everyone then.