Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law a bill to require applicants for cash assistance from the Temporary Aid to Needy Families program – also known as the welfare program called TANF.  House Bill 861 requires that applicants pay for the test. They will be reimbursed if they pass the drug test.  They are denied benefits if they fail the test.

The money-saving argument of supporters of mandatory drug testing for applicants for state assistance programs has been disputed by new data from Florida just reported by the New York Times.  From July through October, 2011, drug testing cost the state $118,140. The small number who failed the test, 108 out of 4,086, and were denied benefits didn’t outweigh the overall tests costs – the program still ended up costing state government $45,780 according to analysis of state data completed by the ACLU in Florida.

Over the past decade, governments at all levels have increased tracking results of government services—from the federal tracking of social benefits to states closely monitoring child protective services to cities filling potholes. No attempt has been made, however, to launch a comprehensive effort to compare state service outcomes in multiple services. This report provides data and analysis of outcome measures in the area of public assistance as part of the State Comparative Performance Measurement Project.

States bear enormous responsibility for administering the nation’s safety net programs. They are the first responders when unemployed workers apply for unemployment benefits, food assis­tance and welfare. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 expanded some safety net support, temporarily filling in some of the benefit gaps.

States bear enormous responsibility for administering the nation’s safety net programs. They are the first responders when unemployed workers apply for unemployment benefits, food assistance and welfare. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 expanded some safety net support, temporarily filling in some of the benefit gaps.

Congress has failed to act in a timely manner on the reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families block grant. Nonetheless, the next generation of welfare reform is already underway. A slowly growing economy, the end of rapid caseload reductions, massive state and local budget problems, and the constraints of a closed-ended block grant will pose serious constraints on state flexibility and on states’ ability to continue new programs developed under the block grant. At the same time, a larger portion of child-only cases, increased sanction rates, a residual population of longer-term cases and the needs of the working poor will require new programs and more effective services. Although it will be difficult, states have little option but to begin to address these problems without waiting for federal action.

As states continue to implement the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant, they will need to address issues such as rapidly approaching time limits on federal assistance and the importance of enhancing supports to promote job retention and advancement. In addition, as Congress considers the reauthorization of TANF and other income-security programs, states will want to give close attention to both programmatic aspects of any reauthorization proposal and to their impact on state and local flexibility.