Georgia Governor Signs Welfare Drug Testing Bill as New Data Show No Savings in Florida

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.

"This program is intended as a safety net, and this requirement guarantees that the benefits are used for their intended purposes -- to care for children and assist with job preparation," Deal told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The Southern Center on Human Rights, based in Atlanta, and the American Civil Liberties Union have both been reported by the media as likely to sue.

An almost identical law in Florida was found to be unconstitutional by state courts last year and has been suspended pending appeal by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

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.

The ACLU also reported that internal state documents stated the drug testing did not lead to lower case loads. The New York Times reported the document stated, “We saw no dampening effect on the caseload.”