Florida Welfare Drug Testing Ends

A day after a Federal judge stopped the state from drug testing welfare recipients, the state says it is unsure if the small number of people who tested positive, mostly for marijuana, will be allowed to receive benefits. The state got little for its efforts.

Michelle Hill has a lot in common with applicants for public assistance. “I don’t do no kind of drugs. I am drug free.”

After three months and more than 7 thousand drug tests, just 32 applicants tested positive. An Orlando single father of a four year old refused the test and sued.

The Federal court told the state to stop testing immediately. It has. Richard Benham is an ACLU Advisor. “I think it is important for people to know that their constitutionally protected rights under the fourth amendment to be free from unreasonable searches, they don’t give those up just because their avail themselves of a government benefit.”

In addition to those who took the test, About 1600 others have completed everything but the drug test. They are now eligible to reapply.

Behind non-descript doors in Tallahassee is the state’s child abuse hotline. The law allows cases to be reported here, and for police to access the files.

The department spokesman Joe Follick says no cases were referred to police. “If someone did test positive, we would have someone from the Department or one of our community partners, visit that family, not with law enforcement or in an investigatory way, and just say , hey, if you need some help, here’s some things you can do here, because we want families to succeed.”

Even the legislature’s own staff predicted the court outcome in its analysis before the legislation passed and took effect in July. So far the state has spent about two hundred thousand dollars reimbursing applicants who tested negative.

The court’s order was temporary but based on the likely hood the final decision would be the same. The state says it is reviewing its legal options.


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