Thursday, July 23, 2015

Is Arizona Wasting Taxpayer Money When Drug Testing Welfare Recipients?

Posted By on Thu, Jul 23, 2015 at 12:00 PM

In 2009, Arizona became the first state to impose a drug-test rule for Welfare recipients (when there is a reasonable cause that is, which according to USA Today "reasonable cause" means you confess you've used drugs in the past 30 days.). Since then, about 87,000 people have been tested, and guess how many came out positive for drug use...

One during the first three years of the program, and a grand total of three from 2009 to 2014.

According to a write up by Mic's Gregory Krieg, the program is in place to allegedly protect taxpayer dollars, but it only saved Arizona $560 out of the $200 million its paid out in assistance since the testing program started:
"We don't want people who are abusing drugs to be on welfare," GOP state Rep. John Kavanagh told the Arizona Republic in 2009, "because that means that the taxpayers are subsidizing and facilitating illegal drug use."

But an examination of Arizona's experiment reveals a flawed policy that has failed to accomplish its stated goal. Instead of saving the state money, it's cost taxpayers millions of dollars while doing little more than further stigmatizing poverty and marginalizing the poor.


Checking in again in March, the Arizona Sonora News Service cited state Department of Economic Security figures which found that over the course of more than five years, "42 people have been asked to take a follow-up drug test and 19 actually took the test, 16 of whom passed. The other 23 were stripped of their benefits for failing to take the drug test."

That adds up to a grand total of three failed tests from 2009-2014. The net savings reaped from withholding benefits for those who either tested positive or failed to complete a drug test was around $3,500, once the $500 cost of testing the 19 is factored in, according to one state agency report. The haul is especially unimpressive when you consider the $1.7 million in savings state officials promised when they unveiled the program.
Still, Mic says at least six other states have similar programs that are also flawed. In Utah, 12 out of 466 people tested positive for drugs at a cost to the stat of $25,000. In Tennessee, 37 out of 16,017, or .023 percent, of recipients failed their drug test. 

Read the entire article here

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