Legislating from the bench: Welfare costs increase

Department of Children and Families communications director Joe Follick informed local Historic City News reporters that the state agency that administers Florida’s welfare program saw, by far, the largest month-to-month increase in applications and payouts “for at least a decade” during December.

These results come just one month after United States federal judge Mary Stenson Scriven, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Miami, issued a temporary injunction to stop enforcement of a new state law that requires welfare applicants to pass a drug test before receiving benefits.

The report provided Historic City News said that, of the 13,914-application increase in December, about 2,000 new welfare applications came from people who appeared eligible to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits previously — but simply refused to take the drug test.

In December, welfare applications reached 146,020 — a 10.5 percent increase from November. The total amount paid out increased 7.9 percent to $12.5 million. Since then, the monthly payout has held steady between $12.58 million and $12.62 million during the first three months of this year.

Despite the figures provided, Follick surmised, “I think that the increase probably was somewhat due to the drug-testing lawsuit, but, I don’t think it was the large factor”.

Follick believes that a slight, expected seasonal bump from November to December, coupled with a general decline in overall welfare applications during last year, due to lower unemployment rates, are more likely causes of the ten-year-high spike.

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