25 October 2011
Florida Law: Drug Testing for Welfare Applicants
The state of Florida recently passed a law, effective July 1, 2011, requiring the Florida Department of Children and Family Services to administer drug tests to all new applicants to the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. According to the law, applicants are responsible for the cost of the drug screening. This cost will be reimbursed if the applicant passes the drug test. According to the law, applicants who fail the drug test can designate another individual to receive the benefits on behalf of the applicant’s children. All applicants who fail the drug ...view middle of the document...
Created under the Social Security Act of 1935, AFDC’s primary purpose is providing income for needy families. Assistance was determined primarily by the family’s financial condition (Reference to be added). In 1996, AFDC was replaced with PRWORA, which created the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. This replacement of AFDC with PRWORA changed the focus of welfare programs from simply providing aid to needy families to helping families move from welfare assistance to work.
Today, the exact implementation of TANF is determined by the state. In order for states to receive TANF funding, they are required to submit a document detailing the intended use of the funds. These documents are expected to detail the criteria for delivery of benefits, determination of eligibility, and implementation of fair and equitable treatment (U.S. Government Printing Office). The federal government then provides a fixed-sum grant to the state based on prior funding levels (Montoya and Atkinson 138).
The federal TANF policy also gives the state the authority to test welfare recipients for controlled substances. The policy states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, States shall not be prohibited by the Federal Government from testing welfare recipients for use of controlled substances nor from sanctioning welfare recipients who test positive for use of controlled substances” (U.S. Government Printing Office). Individual states have implemented their right to drug-testing through different methods, ranging from written questionnaires to actual drug tests.
Under the federal law, TANF participants are limited to 60 months of TANF benefits before being required to engage in work or a work-like activity at least 20 hours per week. Examples of work-like activities include job readiness activities, on-the-job training, and vocational education (Montoya and Atkinson 140).
State Welfare Drug-Testing History
TANF has created a need for the individual state to determine how to (1) provide assistance for needy families and (2) control illegal drug use among assistance recipients. Florida is not the first state to exercise its right to test welfare recipients for use of controlled substances. Michigan, Arizona, and Oregon also have attempted to implement similar policies and practices.
In 1999, Michigan attempted to enact a law requiring drug-testing for welfare assistance. It had been in force for only five weeks when the program’s constitutionality was called into question. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claimed the state had no right to violate citizens’ rights by requiring a drug test in order to receive welfare. The ACLU filed a lawsuit in which it argued that drug testing welfare recipients is unconstitutional because it violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches. The court agreed with the policy and struck down the law. After an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the...