Fla. Considers Drug Testing Bill for Welfare Assistance

Should you be clean to get on welfare? Lawmakers in Florida think so. A recent bill requiring drug tests for temporary welfare assistance in Florida passed through the state senate and house last week and may become law.

Florida, however, isn’t alone in requiring drug tests for welfare recipients. We saw a similar instance nearly two years ago in California. Michigan passed a similar bill in 2002 but was struck down by the federal government, and Louisiana has tried on multiple occasions.

What are the pros of passing this bill? According to the Miami Herald, state lawmakers equate this potential procedure with drug testing for a job: If you can’t pass a drug test, you can’t have the position. Additionally, the state house and senate believe getting clean for welfare is incentive for drug users to stop their habit or seek treatment.

Even if these arguments are somewhat logical, the downsides, expressed in the Miami Herald article, are significant. Aside from being potentially unconstitutional, the bill requires those applying for welfare assistance to pay a $35 fee for drug testing. Not having the money for the drug test may cause those needing assistance to completely forego help.

Ideally, an individual needing welfare plans to use it only temporarily, until he or she obtains gainful employment, but what about if an individual simply needs to get clean and does not have the funds? Although in a perfect world addicts could easily quit without assistance, this is seldom the case.

As far as the fee is concerned, what could result? First, as we mentioned, it could turn those truly needing help away, much like mandatory background check fees causing job candidates to halt their applications. Second, it could be the start of debt. If an individual takes out a Payday Loan, which always has significant interested attached, could he or she even pay it off once on welfare?