JUST THE STATS
Number of Floridians enrolled in the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program; only 108 of the 4,046 tested came up positive for drug use before the courts ruled HB 353 – mandating drug tests for welfare recipients – unconstitutional the first time in 2011
Amount Florida taxpayers had to pay in reimbursements for those clean drug tests over three months in 2011
Number of Floridians currently lost in the state’s failing unemployment payment processing system, CONNECT, which cost the state $63 million to create. The state must now hire an additional 330 people to help process cases at an undisclosed cost
“Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child. We should have a zero tolerance policy for illegal drug use in families – especially those families who struggle to make ends meet and need welfare assistance to provide for their children.”
– Gov. Rick Scott, in a statement
Sources: Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times
THE DROWNING POOL
Though most of the white noise that’s been proliferating in Florida politics the past couple of weeks – save the heavy “Sorry, gays” noise coming from long-faced gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Crist – has been some variation on Gov. Rick Scott’s esteemed history of creating shit jobs around the state (most recently leading to a drop to 6.4 percent unemployment in December), there have been other less laudatory developments weighing both Scott and the economy down.
And it hasn’t been wholly unexpected – Scott has never pretended to understand Floridian poverty – but it’s troublesome just the same. The combined effect of Scott’s continued attacks on welfare recipients, his failure to deliver an effective unemployment disbursement system and his refusal of federal dollars to expand Medicaid is that, hey, we must be a lot poorer than this asshat is letting on, because that’s actually a lot of poverty crap to chatter about. That, combined with the smoke-and-mirrors prosperity gospel of incentivized corporations so frequently spewed at press ops – and the absence of jobs actually created because, duh, the rich people are keeping it to themselves – and it doesn’t look like a very good election year for our least favorite governor ever, at least until he buys it again or the Democrats eat their own. But still!
So there he was last week, singing the praises of “aviation manufacturing attractiveness” (seriously) in a press release, when, on New Year’s Eve, federal Judge Mary Scriven handed out yet another smackdown on Gov. Scott’s attempt to piss-test welfare moms. You may recall that this saga has been going on forever, once climaxing in a classic moment documented by The Daily Show in which Scott was asked to piss in a cup himself. Huzzah! (He didn’t do it.) You’ll also note that the suit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, was boldly referencing the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections from unnecessary search and seizure.
Anyway, Scott has stood firmly by his urinal, insisting that his bullheaded actions have always been “fundamentally about protecting the well-being of Florida families.” Only the math was never on his side. When he and Republicans in the Legislature did get their snob-snot way for a few months, only 2 percent of those tested came up positive, and most of those were with just marijuana – hardly worth the $118,000 in public money that it cost to make that opposite-day point. Regardless, in the wake of the latest decision – and even in an election year – Scott is promising to appeal the court decision, because welfare moms are the red meat of rural Florida Republicans (except the ones on welfare).
Bully! But now Scott’s also being saddled with the Florida version of “mass software glitches” in the form of the failed Department of Economic Opportunity (ha!) website for the unemployed, CONNECT. Some 230,000 sad sacks about whom Scott probably cares very little have been unable to access their promised unemployment benefits – even through the holidays – because Florida families are always a super priority. On Jan. 2, the DEO responded to all the poor-hating press by announcing that it was going to throw more good money after bad by hiring some 330 additional people to sort through the thousands of claims (this while penalizing the website creator Deloitte by withholding payments until everything works right, mm-hmm).
“We are dedicated to making sure every claim is processed quickly, and we will continue to work until every claimant is served,” DEO executive director Jesse Panuccio told the Tampa Bay Times. All this sincere concern for the poor is getting really hard to handle.