Florida government defends requiring drug tests for welfare recipients
Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, supports drug testing for Floridians who want to receive welfare benefits.
June 5th, 2011
01:07 PM ET

Florida government defends requiring drug tests for welfare recipients

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is defending recent legislation that requires adults in the state applying for welfare assistance to undergo drug screenings, saying the law provides "personal accountability."

"It's not right for taxpayer money to be paying for somebody's drug addiction," Scott said on CNN on Sunday. "On top of that, this is going to increase personal responsibility, personal accountability. We shouldn't be subsidizing people's addiction."

But the ACLU of Florida disagrees. It has already filed suit against Scott over a measure requiring government employees to undergo random drug testing. It says it may sue over the welfare law as well.

"What (Scott) is doing is giving ugly legitimacy to an unfortunate stereotype that has been in this country for a couple of decades - that all welfare recipients are a bunch of drug abusers," said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.

Scott told CNN he wants to ensure that welfare funds go to their primary target - to disadvantaged children - and provide people with an incentive not to use drugs. He signed the measure on June 1, calling it "the right thing for taxpayers."

Under the law, which takes effect on July 1, the Florida Department of Children and Family Services will be required to conduct the drug tests on adults applying to the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The aid recipients would be responsible for the cost of the screening, which they would recoup in their assistance if they qualify.

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Filed under: Florida • Politics
soundoff (637 Responses)
  1. Kirsten

    I absolutely agree with this decision. People do need to be accountable for their behavior. I also feel that when you ask the state for help with meeting basic needs, that you should be required to be accountable for that request and whatever assistance comes your way. It was not too long ago that people could finance their entire lives on welfare without ever having to work or live independently. I am not saying that people continue to do this nor am I saying that I agree that every person who receives public assistance is a drug addict. What I am saying is for every aspect of our lives, there is some level of accountability required. This should be no different. If people are so worried about what this means for children, I ask you to consider what it means when a parent/caretaker takes their public assistance money and buys drugs or some other unneccessary item instead of using it for their children. This happens more than any child advocate wants to acknowledge and either way, the child loses. At least with this there is some measure of accountability and possibly hope for treatment.

    June 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kandie

    I strongly agree with this decision and wish ALL STATES would request the same thing. Everywhere and everything we do requires some form of accountability and responsibility. If you ask the state for assistance to help meet those basic needs, you should be required to be accountable, and show responsible behavior. Not everyone who receives public assistance is a drug addict but those people who aren’t, shouldn’t have a problem with it and those people who are… Get help with that addiction in order to be a better Parent to the Child you are getting the assistance to help raise, build character, feed and shelter… Would love to see it happen in OHIO….

    June 9, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Aidalis

    I would love for this to be done in every state. I live in PA and I am so sick and tired of seeing the same people living off of the state yet they have money to drink, smoke and party but do not have the energy to get up and find a job or even find out if their child is doing well in school. This is not about race, gender or culture but about being held accountable for your actions. We complain so much that we pay too many taxes yet some people think that everyone has the right to get high, people lets be for real, why should I or anyone else tolerate our money being spent on drugs.

    June 9, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amy

      I completely agree with you, I am also in PA, many employers do drug testing prior to employment so why not require it to collect assistance, especially when it's all of the workers who PASSED a drug test who are supporting those that need help. I definitely don't want my hard earned income going to support a drug habit.

      June 25, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Robert

    Why are people upset about this again?

    June 9, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mike Rhoden

    Does a state really have the right to test a certain segment of people (welfare recipients)? Most of people I have talked with are saying yes but I do not know if they understand the differences in only certain groups. Forget about the name welfare and let us say the name of this group is "needs a helping hand". We all understand why people get on welfare and it works. Working with these people and helping them get back up on their feet, helping find jobs so they can start providing for their families, by doing this it will increase the money the state has for programs like education, job training, and creating new jobs in the states economy. Illegal drug use is and correct me if I am wrong found in all segments of life not just welfare click on this link to read the rest of my article http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/1077991/256bullpin1.html

    June 9, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kathy M

      Even though in all segments of life illegal drug use is found, for one that doesn't make it okay and two that doesn't mean that people needing a helping hand should be allowed to use them and have their habits enabled by my money. Many years ago I was on assistance and hated it. I could not stand the fact that myself and my husband could not take care of our child on our own. Even then I would have taken a test everyday if I had to at that point in my life because we really did need help. We were only on it for 3 years, then chose not to renew our application and just deal with our situation no matter the sacrifices that we had to make. The point being made is that if you are out buying drugs do you really need assistane? Do you really want to improve the lives of your children, If they did wouldn't drugs be the first thing to go? They don't need my money to facilitate their habits, and I don't want to give it! Leave it for someone that genuinely wants to improve their lives and the lives of their families. Or for those who aren't capable of doing so because of illness or disability. Even with that being said no one should be excluded from this drug testing. I feel it should be given at random intermittently as well. Should I find it offensive that when applying for a job I am asked that I take a drug test? Are my prospective employers insinuating everyone applying for this position are on drugs? Should I be offended by that? Hahaha I don't know about others who aren't on drugs, but being one who isn't is not. I know those people trying to clean their systems or find clean urine aren't either, or they wouldn't be applying. There is no difference. I hope I did not come across as brash, this, among many others, is a topic that I am passionate about.

      As for the people who aren't abusing the system by being on assistance and using illegal drugs they are making enough money to maintain their habits and their life why should they be of my concern in regards to people on welfare? I feel though the two topics have a commonality, illegal drugs, they are two completely different subjects and can't be compared or handled the same.

      June 10, 2011 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Kathy M

      That last comment, "I completely agree" was suppose to go to Lolita's post.

      June 10, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. Doug

    I am on SSI and SNAP (food stamps) I do not have a problem with taking a drug test. I am on Percocet for chest pain because of heart problems. I have never had a problem with a drug test. I just show the the lab official the prescription bottle for the Percocet.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Kathy M

      Exactly! If you aren't "guilty" for lack of better word, you shouldn't have a problem with it!

      June 10, 2011 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      As Kathy says, you shouldn't have a problem with it is you are not guilty. Similar to protesting a DUI test if you are not drunk: WHY???

      June 10, 2011 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
    • William H

      Because the law is pretty clear in it's position on this matter, the state shall not be conducting drug testing of welfare recipients. IT'S ILLEGAL!!!! The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments have clauses in them that protect people from unreasonable searches and impedance of due process. When we start drug testing people on welfare where does it end? Do we test people on unemployment, or what about people on section 8? Maybe everyone who receives state aid shall be tested. All you supporters should be a little leery and consider the doors this law will potentially open

      June 11, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • parker

      i really wouldnt be bothered test everyone who gets state aid. have u ever been through section 8, My friend had to live in one and it smelled like weed all the time and his neighbor smoked meth. Of the 5 people i know who went on unemployment 3 used the money to pay more drugs and booze than anything else. Why should tax dollars pay for that?

      June 12, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. Cynthia R.

    Always amazes me how people call it "their money" or "taxpayer money" when they think "THEY" are paying out. But if something happens to them, where they DO need help, they find how poor you have to be, and how hard it is to qualify for ANY kind of assistance. Then they leave saying, how "UNFAIR" the system is. And saying "I thought this was a safety net" and so on. If you did your research you would know that a very tiny, tiny, percentage of people filing for assistance have any history with drugs. You would also know assistance has a 5 year cap in which you have to either be taking job training, working, or trying to find work. I became disabled and could not work. I had just moved and had used all my savings in the move. I had zero income for over 6 months. I was awarded a full $80 a month and $120 in food stamps, for use only while i waited for social security disability to get approved. Getting it approved took 2 1/2 years. Now, how do you think I lived being disabled during that time? Can anyone say..."homeless"?

    June 10, 2011 at 2:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Benefits seem to be like the police – no one likes them unless they need them, then people come running. People in this country have no idea how easy it is to lose everything – I see it all the time – people lose a well paying job and cannot find other work eventually land on SSI and are applying for SNAP and TANF as well.

      June 10, 2011 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Julia

      I understand that you used the programs, but using the programs does not make having them available right. Taxpayer money is someone else's money, no matter what situation you are in. People do not want to feel like they owe someone when they use this money, but the plain truth is that you are using someone elses money (it's obviously not your own) and you are accountable to those people. If you don't want to feel accountable, then don't use somene else's money. I don't believe in governmental aid and your stereotype that people who don't believe in aid have either never had to use it, or when in a tight spot, they jump to use it, is dead wrong. Recently we were pregnant and lost our job, and then got another job making way under the poverty line. Although every person IMAGINABLE told us to aply for medicaid to have our baby. We refused because we know it's wrong to ask other to pay for us to have children when we still purchased a birthday present for eachother, or went out to eat a couple times a year. Other people should not have to pay for our life choices. Now we are happily paying small amounts off of or hospital bill and will have our baby paid off by the time she's three. It was our choice, and not yours to have a baby, and it's our responsibility to pay for it. Life is hard. End of story.

      June 19, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cynthia R.

    Wake up people.....a huge percentage of people who are filing for assistance, worked and paid taxes before they had some kind of a problem that caused them to file for assistance. Also, prescription medications often trigger a positive on drug use. Eating poppy seed bagels will even trigger an positive. While it is ok, to test for drugs, these other things have to be considered as well, and the state is expecting those applying to put out the money for the tests. While free or low income clinics can often do the test, it takes months many times to get an appointment. They said they would reimburse the applicant, but generally when the government is going to "reimburse" it also takes months.
    Those people who see people getting assistance, also having a lot of other conveniences, must realize, many people get help from friends, family and other government agency's as well. There are phone programs, food programs, (besides food stamps) health programs, discounts, free items given out at food and item pantries, (like cologne). As far as those on assistance also having things like premium cable....I have known plenty of people not on assistance who have had premium channels. Only takes a connection and hoping you don't get caught, or knowing the right person. Many people on assistance do not qualify for a regular phone as they don't have the income or credit, but the can go thru the system and get a free or discounted cell phone with a certain number of minutes. A lot of people you see on assistance, are also getting help from other people they know. For that person who said ss and ssi and ssdi, and medicaid is money they paid in, think again. This money is not set aside which is why there is a problem with it. The government has used it for other things already. They don't always go on your work record. If you were unemployed for the last six months and become disabled they only give you ssi, which is the "welfare" part of social secuity. People that apply for assistance "used" to be taxpayers. You think they just popped up out of a cabbage patch or something?? Seems a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. If you are going to dis a major part of the population, at least look up some info first so you don't look like an idiot spouting off.

    June 10, 2011 at 2:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Cynthia, I agree with you on many aspects. My work allows me to see and help numerous people apply for 'benefits' and I would say that 99.99999% of them are legitimate – I always say that no one in their right mind wants to live off SSI, as maximum pay is $674.00 per month and it is an unfortunate, but necessary (to prevent fraud), hassle to get benefits. Here in PA, as in most other states, people can apply for assistance for utilities, get a free phone via safelink (or whomever else), SNAP and apply for federal housing. Most consumers I deal with are living, at the end of bills, about $100 per month. People should try living on $100 per month and have go to food pantries or try buying clothing etc.. It isn't easy. Most people don't realize that without SSI, SNAP, TANF, etc, that crime and homelessness will increase. The main thing our gov't should be working on is getting people decent employment and increasing minimum wage across the board.

      June 10, 2011 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
  9. ddddon

    I also know of several people who live together, have kids, but will not marry so that the woman can collect on her and the children. The men also have good paying jobs!!! Makes me furious!!

    June 10, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bill

    HOO RAH!! The Florida Governor is RIGHT! The aclu (small case = no respect) is a communist/facist group of traitors who MUST be stopped.


    June 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • William H

      Um do you even know what a fascist is??? The people who made the laws are fascists not the ACLU

      June 11, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Allison

    They should drug test for congress too.

    June 11, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. dean

    The state has no business requiring drug tests of it's citizens for any purpose. The state also has no business redistributing the taxpayer's money through welfare programs like this. If they were truly interested in promoting personal accountability they wouldn't be subsidizing their citizens.

    June 12, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Roy S

    I agree. I feel anyone receiving any kind of federal or state benefit should be tested. If you don't do drugs you shouldn't have any worries.

    June 16, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • jason tody

      so what happens if the parents cant pass the test do we offer them help or we just turn them and there kids away to save money......what would jesus do

      June 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lorelei Gilmore

    I have mixed emotions about this new legislature. Of course welfare money should not be supporting the purchase and sale of illegal substances. The welfare system has proven to be very helpful to families who have lost there jobs and suffered in this economy trying to pay bills and feed everyone. While it is a good incentive to quit the drug addiction, it excludes many people from benefits if they have suffered a low point in their lives. As a previous drug abuser, I know how hard it can be to get out of difficult situations. I had a job throughout my drug using period, and all my friends on drugs had jobs too. It wasn't all that bad. I just feel sorry for the people who have lost everything, and are trying to get assistance for one last chance at making it somewhere life, being denied help.

    June 20, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rhonda B.

    I agree with this state's decision. I too, was a recepient of TAFDC and SNAP benefits, and it is a frustrating and degrading process for those of us who have worked and paid our taxes. But I would have NO PROBLEM submitting myself to drug tests, I have nothing to hide, nothing. And as far as the 99.99999%, that's crap, it depends on the geographical location. In my hometown, majority of welfare and SSI recepients are sit at home drunks and drug abusers. Some drugs are phyciatric in nature, but the doctors in this area are so corrupt that people are staying home collecting benefits with headaches. The ACLU is dangerous, and they do need to be stopped at all costs. This is not the only type of case they get involved in. They also get involved between school systems, parents and children for the sake of equal rights.

    June 21, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • jason tody

      @ rhonda b., so what happens if the parents cant pass the test do we offer them help or we just turn them and there kids away to save money......what would jesus do

      June 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • A PARENT


      July 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
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