Florida’s Mandatory Drug Tests for Welfare Recipients Finds Few Fails
Florida Governor Rick Scott’s plan to test all welfare recipients to see if they are using drugs before they can receive payments is hardly saving the state any money, according to recent reports.
Of the roughly 1000 welfare applicants who have gone through testing so far, only about 2 percent — roughly 20 recipients — did not pass. At $30 per test, the state paid $28,800 in drug test reimbursements (960 reimbursements at $30 each, since about 2 percent also didn’t finish the application process) for those who did pass, while saving themselves about $66,000 in payments that did not have to be made for the year to those applicants that didn’t make it through for one reason or another (applicants receive $138 a month, or $1656 per year).
Tampa Bay Online breaks down the numbers even further.
Cost of the tests averages about $30. Assuming that 1,000 to 1,500 applicants take the test every month, the state will owe about $28,800-$43,200 monthly in reimbursements to those who test drug-free.
That compares with roughly $32,200-$48,200 the state may save on one month’s worth of rejected applicants.
The savings assume that 20 to 30 people — 2 percent of 1,000 to 1,500 tested — fail the drug test every month. On average, a welfare recipient costs the state $134 in monthly benefits, which the rejected applicants won’t get, saving the state $2,680-$3,350 per month.
But since one failed test disqualifies an applicant for a full year’s worth of benefits, the state could save $32,200-$48,200 annually on the applicants rejected in a single month.
Net savings to the state — $3,400 to $8,200 annually on one month’s worth of rejected applicants. Over 12 months, the money saved on all rejected applicants would add up to $40,800-$98,400 for the cash assistance program that state analysts have predicted will cost $178 million this fiscal year.
In other words, in one year, the program will likely at most save the state 0.06 percent of the overall welfare budget.
Scott’s argument behind fighting for the new law was that welfare recipients are much more likely to be using drugs than the general population, and this test ensures that tax dollars go only to people who are using the assistance for the the right reasons, rather than spending it on potential addictions. Instead, he has proven that the population of welfare recipients has a much lower rate of drug use than the rest of the population — just 2-4 percent, compared the the general 8 percent statewide.
But the governor did manage to prove one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt — that his stereotype of the every day person on welfare doesn’t in any way match a real life person seeking aid.
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