Welfare Drug Testing Projected to Save Millions, but Not Because People Are Failing Drug Tests

A conservative think-tank released a study yesterday on the state's new welfare drug-testing law, championing a projection that the state will save more than $9 million in the first year of testing, after 9.6 percent of applicants didn't receive benefits due to drug testing in the first month.

Of course, there's a catch -- 9.6 percent of applicants didn't fail the drug tests.

In fact, just nine out of the 5,964 applicants (0.15 percent) actually failed the drug test, and 565 never took the test.

We saw that Sunshine State News was throwing a fit today that nobody covered this study, but its piece on the matter happens to omit the fact that 99.8 percent of welfare applicants didn't fail the drug tests in the first month.

Instead, a blatant error was inserted into that story, saying in the fourth paragraph that "574 applicants were denied because they tested positive for drug use."

The study itself implies that the 574 people who didn't take the test are drug users anyway, which isn't exactly "research":

Those who test positive for drug use are ineligible for cash assistance for one year, but may reapply after six months if they provide proof of completing substance abuse treatment.

Given this, applicants who are drug users have a big incentive to never get tested at all (since the TCA application requires that all drug test results are reported to DCF). From the perspective of the applicant, to not complete the application process is better (and cheaper) than testing positive for drug use and definitively losing eligibility for six months to a year.

So the state will save a projected $9 million by assuming 9.6 percent of people are drug addicts because they didn't take a test to prove they weren't.

Happy savings!

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley