WASHINGTON, June 8, 2011- Florida’s new legislation requiring low-income needy families to pass a drug test before receiving aid is on-track for keeping tax payers from subsidizing drug use. However, the law misses the larger point of stereotyping low-income recipients and allowing abuse by neglecting to test all aid recipients.
Florida Governor Rick Scott this week signed legislation requiring applicants seeking to benefit from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to pass a drug screen before receiving aid. After signing the bill into law, Scott, a Republican, said it was “the right thing for citizens of this state that need public assistance. We don’t want to waste tax dollars. And also, we want to give people an incentive to not use drugs.”
Funds for the program are granted to states by the federal government.
Under the Florida law, which goes into effect July 1, aid applicants will be required to front the cost of the drug screening. If they pass the drug test and are accepted into the program, they can apply for a refund.
Applicants who fail will be able to ask that another relative receive the funds on behalf of their children. The good news is that at least innocent children won’t be denied help because they just happen to have drug-addicted parents.
Let me be clear: I do not want tax dollars to be used to supplement anyone’s drug habit. My concern with the program is that the drug tests are limited to low-income poor who receive public subsidies. I also don’t want to subsidize college kids who receive grants and have meth and pot habits, or errant business owners who use government grant money to feed their cocaine habits. It would be considered outrageous to drug test people in those groups because we all assume most people in college or who run a business are doing the right thing. In actuality, though, there are drug users in all socio-economic classes.
This law presupposes that poor people are more likely to be on drugs than other beneficiaries of state and federal funds. If the idea and intent behind it is to make sure our tax dollars aren’t wasted on fueling a drug habit, shouldn’t all recipients of state and federal aid be required to take a drug test?
I have no objection at all to drug testing the recipients of government subsidies. I do worry that the impetus behind the Florida law comes from a deep dark place in the minds of legislators, the suspicion that most women on public assistance are holed up in their houses, unemployed and having babies while their men avoid work and shoot up or smoke pot all day. Was there a study done to validate this thinking that I missed?
When it comes down to it, the issue is probably personal for me. As a mother of three who looks quite young, I’ve been on many occasions the target of judgmental stares when I’ve been out and about with my children. I feel I’m being judged with the stereotype of the black welfare queen who breeds children she cannot care for, instead relying on the government and taxpayers to feed, clothe and house them.
Stereotypes are based on judgments not necessarily rooted in fact, but ideas and notions assigned to certain people, often times race-based. Not all people admit to believing racial stereotypes in mixed company for fear of being labeled politically incorrect, but few can deny having stereotypes about various groups. It has been stressful, but I’ve learned to ignore the looks and stop trying to internalize, predict and interpret every gawk.
Who wants to subsidize coke addicts? I don’t, but I am not sure I want lawmakers legislating stereotypes, either.
Read more Politics of Raising Children in The Communities at the Washington Times. Follow Jeneba Ghatt at @JenebaSpeaks. Her work can also be read at JenebaSpeaks and Politic365. She also co-hosts a Blog Talk Radio show called Right of Black which tackles current events and politics from a perspective not often seen in the mainstream media.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.