Updated:ORLANDO, Fla.,None — More than 200,000 Floridians would have to take drug tests each year to qualify for welfare, but WFTV investigative reporter George Spencer learned that the program might cost more than it saves.
Beginning just days from Tuesday, officials said Florida welfare applicants will have to pass drug screenings before getting cash assistance. It fulfills a campaign promise of Governor Rick Scott, but critics said it will backfire.
"It's very ironic that someone like Rick Scott would have pushed this big government, unconstitutional policy, when he normally prides himself around the state on cutting waste and reducing government," said Mike Cantone, Organize Now's Florida Political Director.
Governor Scott said the goal is to save taxpayer money and encourage people to avoid drugs. He wouldn't elaborate when WFTV caught up with him earlier this month.
Officials said 4,000 people in Orange County alone would have to be tested, but WFTV found evidence suggesting the drug testing may cost more than it would save.
Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare studied a similar proposal. Under one scenario, they found statewide savings of about $68,000. Under a second scenario, the savings decreased to $8,000.
Since Florida has such a large population, officials said that people would likely have to re-pay the $30 per-person testing cost to many more applicants who pass than Idaho would.
There could also be huge legal bills to defend the new law from powerful opponents like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
"In addition to the unknown costs of this frankly unconstitutional policy, there's the whole unknown of the bureaucracy that will need to be created," said Cantone.
The Department of Children and Families said they estimate there will be 4,400 drug tests a month, under the new plan.