House committee OK’s bill to drug test temporary family aid seekers

drug testing

A bill that would require drug testing for adults of families previously convicted of drug offenses who are applying for temporary family assistance from the state of Florida passed a House committee Monday.

Sponsored by Rep. Chris Latvala, the bill – HB 1117 — would mandate the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to give drug screenings to applicants of temporary assistance for needy families, or TANF, who have felony convictions or histories of drug-related offenses, and arrests, within 10 previous years of the application.

The applicant, if he or she fails such a test, would then have to wait a minimum of six months to reapply or attend a substance treatment program at their own expense. The cost of the drug test itself – $40 – must be paid by the applicant themselves.

If an applicant passes, Latvala said, an extra amount of money would be included in the assistance ultimately determined for his or her family. He did not specify how much money or if it would cover the total cost of the test.

“For those who do fail, the children would not be affected, but those who fail will have to wait six months to a year to reapply, or take a substance abuse course through DCF,” he said.

Federal law regarding the use of TANF funds allows states to test welfare recipients for use of controlled substances and sanction those recipients who test positive. Fifteen states, including Florida, have laws imposing drug testing or screening for TANF applicants or recipients.

Some laws apply to all applicants; other laws limit testing to those instances where there is a reason to believe the applicant or recipient is engaging in illegal drug activity or has a substance use disorder. Other laws require a specific screening process.

In 2011, Florida enacted a law requiring all TANF applicants to submit to a drug test as a condition of eligibility to receive TCA benefits. However, the United States District Court for the Middle Court of Florida declared that law unconstitutional and permanently prohibited the state from reinstating and enforcing the law.

Additionally, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit held that this statute violated the Fourth Amendment for its unreasonable search of applicants without evidence of “a more prevalent, unique, or different drug problem among TANF applicants than in the general population.” This law is not currently being implemented.

Les Neuhaus

Les Neuhaus is an all-platform journalist, with specialties in print reporting and writing. In addition to Florida Politics, he freelances as a general-assignment and breaking-news reporter for most of the major national daily newspapers, along with a host of digital media, and a human rights group. A former foreign correspondent across Africa and Asia, including the Middle East, Les covered a multitude of high-profile events in chronically-unstable nations. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, in which he served as a Security Policeman, and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in political science. He is a proud father to his daughter and enjoys spending time with his family.


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