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Report: Rick Scott's welfare drug tests could save FL $9m

Lost in the condemnation of Gov. Rick Scott's proposal to drug test welfare recipients to save the state money is the deterrence effect, according to a new report from the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative-leaning think tank.

Estimated savings: $9 million, according to the group's analysis of Florida Department of Children and Families data. 

"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)," the report noted. It said that a high number of applicants finished every step in the welfare-benefits application process except for one: getting drug tested.

One piece of data that might be missing is how common it was for applicants to not follow through with the application process/acceptance of benefits prior to the new drug-testing law going into effect. Regardless, the number of so-called "drug-related denials" is up.

The foundation's report, which wound up in my junk folder (thanks gmail spam filter) hasn't yet been vetted. But it's sure to become part of the state's defense in the lawsuit brought by the liberal-leaning American Civil Liberties Union. At the least, the report strongly suggests the law is weeding out some applicants:

"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. Almost all drug-related denials by DCF are for missing drug test results. According to DCF, in July there were only 9 applicants denied for a drug-related reason, but the number of drug-related denials climbed to 565 in August (reflecting the one month lag). Of these 574 total drug-related denials, only 9 were for a positive test. Almost all remaining applicants never completed a drug test even though these individuals completed all other steps in the application process and were determined eligible once DCF received negative drug test results. As previously noted, it can be assumed that all drug-related denials in July 2011 (9) and August 2011 (565) were for July applicants, given the time lag for closed applications due to missing drug test results....

"For July, 9.6 percent of otherwise qualified applicants for cash assistance were denied for a drug-related reason. With an approximate annual savings to the state of $1,608 per drug-related denial (see Table 3), these 574 denials from July 2011 represent annualized savings to Florida taxpayers of $922,992. The cost of reimbursing the 5,390 approved applicants with a negative drug test ($30 average for each) reduces this annualized savings figure by $161,700, for a net savings to taxpayers of $761,292 for the first month of the program alone. Since Florida’s initial denial rate is 9.6 percent, the State is currently saving an estimated $5.71 on drug testing for every $1 it spends reimbursing approved applicants with negative drug tests who ultimately receive cash assistance. If these July trends continue throughout the first year, the drug testing requirement will save Florida taxpayers $9,135,504 from July 2011 through June 2012."