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The fight to drug test Welfare applicants continues

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Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 5:49 pm | Updated: 10:18 am, Wed Aug 21, 2013.

SARASOTA - The law that would require welfare recipients to be drug tested before they can receive assistance is stirring up more controversy.  Governor Rick Scott has announced he's not giving up the fight to make drug testing a part of the qualifying process to get public assistance.

"I feel it is ridiculous because it has nothing to do with feeding our kids," said Amanda Elrod.

Elrod was having a tough time supporting her family so she applied for public assistance.  But if some lawmakers get their way, before she or anyone else can qualify for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, they would first have to pay for and pass a drug test.

"It's just going to make so the people can't get the food stamps they need to feed their children," said Elrod.

The controversial Welfare Drug Test Law was passed back in 2011, but on February 26th of 2013, the law was found to be unconstitutional by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  But, the fight isn't over yet, Governor Scott is now appealing that decision.

"If the Governor wants to challenge that decision, I think its appropriate on the behalf of the people because it's public dollars," said Representative Ray Pilon.

Rep. Pilon voted for the measure and he says the change is necessary to make sure the assistance being provided isn't being misused. "We've had problems in the past where people have been involved in drugs and we don't want that money going to those areas," said Pilon.

In addition to making sure the funds are used properly, Rep. Pilon says drug testing is a good idea whenever public funds are involved.  "I'm in favor of drug testing Welfare applicants.  They do it in jobs all the time.  I'd be happy for anyone to come up and drug test me since I represent the people," added Pilon.

But for people like Elrod, coming up with the money to take the test is easier said than done.

"A lot of people don't have the money to pay for that, a lot of people are having a hard enough time paying their bills alone."

Before the drug testing was halted by the courts, less than 3% of the applicants failed it.  After reimbursing the cost of the tests to applicants that passed, the state has a net loss of $45,780.

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