“Are There No Prisons? Are There No Work Houses?”

I live in Florida. Coming from New England, there has been a lot of adjustment, politically, religiously and otherwise for me, as I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. I’ve never felt at such odds with my new state, however, than now. Now that they’ve passed a law requiring drug testing for potential welfare recipients.

Governor Rick Scott says it is “unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction.” His solution, of course, is to require those recipients to wait in line at designated areas, sit in a room with other people in the same situation waiting possibly hours for their name to be called so that they can urinate in a cup in front of someone as that person watches their every move. Then they get to wait for their results to come back. If they’re “clean”, they’ll get their money back for the test. If they test positive for drugs, they are forced to front the money.

This, in my opinion, is a classist invasion of privacy that humilates those who are forced to ask their government for help. Supposedly helping the taxpayers, the $15 for each test that comes back negative will come out of the tax pool. But that’s not going to be a problem, right? Because of all the money we’ll save by refusing to help those in need because they also have an addiction. And what about those who test positive? They pay for their own tests. Because they can afford it. Right.  Even if the test comes back clean, when are those people going to get their $15 back? If they’re applying for government assistance programs, they probably cannot afford to go without that $15 for any length of time.

I just can’t wrap my mind around making poor people pay for a fairly expensive test out of their own pockets. “Oh, hey! You can’t afford food! Maybe we’ll help you, but first lend us fifteen bucks. We’ll give it back to you at some point, we promise! If you qualify.”

The potential recipients are not to bring their children to the test sites. So, not only do they need to magically come up with money they clearly do not have, they also have to arrange for childcare for that time period. Something I’m sure is really easy for them to coordinate and afford. What of those recipients that work? They’ll need to take time off from their jobs, costing them more money.

What really gets me is that this affects people applying for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. For needy families. So drug-addicted parents must have their innocent children pay for their mistakes? Their families don’t deserve help because they have an addiction? Babies shouldn’t get fed as punishment for the adults in their lives making what the government has decided is a mistake?

No, Gov. Scott has provided for this. Once the parent fails the test, he or she can designate another drug-free adult to apply for the help on their family’s behalf. Of course, this presumes that the failing parents have access to a trusted drug-free adult to take the test for them. Which I’m guessing some of them probably don’t.

Another problem with this law’s intent is that Gov. Scott says “we want to give people an incentive to not use drugs.”

Oh, okay. Because people using drugs can easily break from the habit. The only reason they’re not doing so is because the government is giving them a few bucks here and there to buy bread and milk for their kids, or shelter their little ones from the elements.  Wait, are these things even connected? Do what you want with your government programs, I can’t stop you, but don’t wax idealistically at me as you hammer down the poor in this state with such a cynical law. I’m just saying, I’m pretty sure for at least some of these people, if they could stop using drugs, they would. Probably for their families. Not for your money.

Why don’t poor people stop using drugs? Rehabilitation costs thousands of dollars. Thousands of dollars that these people do not have. Some of them don’t have any support system to speak of at all. Instead of using tax-payer money to systematically test people to deem them worthy of our assistance, why don’t we help fund the sorely lacking rehabilitation options for those without livable income?

We can’t just push drug users to the side because of their habit. Their reliance on substances should not imply that they are not good enough for our support, for our thoughts, and for our help. They often need the most help of all.

This measure does not create jobs, it does not improve the economy and it does not help the poor in our state in this disastrous economical crisis. It does give a booming business to the walk-in clinic organization that Gov. Scott co-founded. Because, really, I’d rather my money go to a drug-testing corporation than to those in need.

Here is an article with more information: http://articles.cnn.com/2011-06-01/politics/florida.welfare.drug.testing_1_drug-testing-drug-screening-tanf?_s=PM:POLITICS


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About parentwin

Parent of twins, blogger, writer and journalist. I write things. Sometimes people even read them.
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