Fact checkers: GOP claim that drug testing welfare recipients will ‘save money’ is bullsh*t

A GOP Rep. and member of the Rhode Island Tea Party is under the impression that drug testing welfare recipients could save her state money – a claim that the fact-checking website Politifact rated as “False.”

The law Doreen Costa (R-RI) is proposing is similar to a Florida law which ban recipients from receiving benefits for a year if they fail a drug test – unless they pay out-of-pocket for a substance abuse treatment program. Should the person complete the treatment program, they can’t reapply for benefits for another six months. If they fail another drug test, they are banned for three years.

“The studies have shown us that it will be saving us money, but we don’t have the exact amount,” Costa said on a local TV talk show. “If we could save the state $10,000, I’ll take it. If we could save them a million, I’ll take it. We have to start somewhere.”

Politifact didn’t look into whether or not drug testing welfare recipients is a good idea. The piece simply focused if the law saves money.

The short answer for Rhode Island is that, under the current system, no state money would be saved because “100 percent of the cash given to TANF recipients is federal money,” said Fred Sneesby, spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.

Under current law, the federal government doesn’t allow Rhode Island to keep any money it saves by denying benefits to people who test positive for drugs, Sneesby said.

Nor will the federal government pay for such testing.

The fact-checking website also addressed claims Costa made where she said previous studies backed up her assumptions about the law.

When we asked her to pinpoint them, she couldn’t cite any. She said she had done her research by going on Ask.com and Google.com and posing the question, “Will drug-testing welfare recipients save money?”

We repeated that exercise. Our spot check showed that the top results consisted mostly of blog items, websites and news stories in which various politicians and commentators had asserted — without real evidence — that drug screening would save money.

However, we did find some studies, but they didn’t support her contention.

In conclusion, Politifact could find no studies to back up Costa’s claim and she was unable to produce any when asked. Additionally and as stated above, Rhode Island can’t save money by denying people their benefits because the payments are federally funded, and “the federal government does not allow states to keep money saved through mandatory drug testing.”

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