Update on 8/26: Reader Alex M rightly points out that our original lede was at best misleading. As stated in the quote included from the Tampa Tribune, the cash assistance program costs an estimated $178 million a year. The full cost of the drug testing program has not yet been calculated, but it is likely to be higher than the meager savings of denying benefits to 2 percent of applicants who tested positive for drugs.
Update @ 6:45pm ET: Thanks to reader Vashti Brenda Fletchall for pointing out another dimension to this story. Gov. Scott held economic interests in the drug testing company that was awarded the sole contract for drug testing. In April he sold off his stock valued at $62 million in the company he founded in 2001, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
Florida’s new drug-tests-for-welfare-applicants program just yielded its first batch of results: 98 percent passed.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who rode his own fortune and the tea party’s adoration to office last year, has stated publicly several times that people on welfare use drugs at a higher rate than the general population. So at Scott’s urging earlier this year, the legislature implemented a policy requiring all temporary cash assistance applicants pass a drug test before getting any help.
The Department of Children and Families says about 2 percent of applicants are failing the test; another 2 percent are not completing the application process, for reasons unspecified, according to the Tampa Tribune.
The Tampa Tribune did some simple math and found out how much the governor’s assumptions about poor people going to cost the state:
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.
Net savings to the state: $3,400 to $5,000 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 to $60,000 for a program that state analysts have predicted will cost $178 million this fiscal year.