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June 06, 2021

Florida to drug test welfare recipients -- good idea?

Last fall, when we discussed the idea of drug testing unemployment insurance recipients, reader feedback was splintered – but not 50/50.

Istockphoto_13674340-cheque After a South Carolina Republican suggested the crackdown, EverydayMoney readers seemed to side with the Yankee politician. For every “Hey hey, what about civil liberties here?” response (real quote from one MSN.ca commenter), there were four or five “Absolutely, they should be tested!!!” (quote from another) hollers of support.

Now, in an entirely different state, drug testing for social benefits is back in the news. But it’s not in South Carolina, and it’s not for unemployment insurance.

The big non-NBA Finals news out of Florida this week is Governor Rick Scott’s signing legislation that will mandate adults applying for welfare assistance to undergo drug screenings. The radical, but widely applauded, measure will become state law on July 1.

“It’s not right for taxpayer money to be paying for somebody’s drug addiction,” Scott told CNN. “On top of that, this is going to increase personal responsibility, personal accountability. We shouldn’t be subsidizing people’s addiction.”

Many Canadians must be nodding right now. Amen, Ricky Boy, they’d say. Yet the governor’s new legislation is ruffling many of the same feathers that the drug-test-unemployment-recipients motion did last autumn.

Opponents to the Florida drug testing measure, as they did in South Carolina, have called it “downright unconstitutional.” Such an infringement, detractors argue, presumes all welfare recipients are drug users.

But contrary to the proposition to drug test benefactors of unemployment insurance, which is largely paid into by the worker prior to their termination, this is welfare we’re talking here. This is public money, through and through. It is, in many ways, free cash to the recipient.

So why people should be upset over drug testing welfare recipients, Scott and his supporters can’t comprehend. As an added feature of the new legislation, the cost of screening isn’t totally forced upon the taxpayer. Aid applicants are responsible for paying for their drug test – if they pass, they recoup their cash in their benefit cheque; if they fail, they pay for the screening. Simple as that. What could be wrong with this proposal, which aims to fix a system that is obviously ripe for exploitation in its current form?

Do you think welfare recipients should be subject to drug testing in order to receive taxpayer-funded benefits?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money

*Follow Jason on Twitter here.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...