Cost for welfare drug testing program could top $1 million
ELKHART — A proposal to begin testing welfare recipients for drugs could cost Indiana more than $1 million in its first year, according to a fiscal analysis.
State lawmakers are debating a bill that would require local social services offices to screen people seeking welfare help as part of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program. Applicants would have to complete a written or electronic assessment that would score their likelihood of substance abuse and determine how often they would be tested for drugs.
An analysis of the House proposal estimates that the cost to implement the drug testing program statewide would be roughly $1.2 million. The estimate includes expenditures related to training staff, purchasing the assessment equipment and tracking individuals who test positive for drugs, among other costs. Workload for social services staff would also increase.
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More than 400 families received TANF benefits in January, including 243 adults and 858 children. The state paid $78,524 in TANF funds in Elkhart County last month, averaging $71.32 per person.
A similar program introduced in Florida required all TANF applicants and recipients to pass a drug test before being approved for benefits. The program operated for four months before a federal court declared the law unconstitutional. During that time, 4,086 people were screened for drugs. They were required to pay between $25 and $35 for each drug test. If the results came back negative, they were reimbursed from TANF funds.
Less than 3 percent of the people screened in Florida during those four months tested positive for drugs, and 40 individuals failed to show up to their appointments. The state reimbursed $118,140 to individuals who passed their drug tests. After four months, the state reported a net loss of $45,780.
If state legislators approve the proposed drug testing program for Indiana, the law would go into effect July 1.