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Fact Check-Inaccuracies in claims Florida, Kentucky and Missouri all require drug testing for welfare recipients

Users on social media have claimed that welfare applicants in Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri require drug testing, which is partly false. A 2011 Florida law that was passed to drug test all welfare recipients was struck down as unconstitutional in 2014. A similar Kentucky bill was introduced but never passed. In Missouri, however, some welfare applicants or recipients are indeed required to take a drug test.

One image on Facebook reads, in part “Here…let me tick some people off…Did you get drug tested today? Thank you Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri, which are the first states that will require drug testing when applying for welfare.” (here).


In 2011, Florida passed a law that would drug test all welfare recipients of the federal program known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (here).

That law faced a lawsuit in 2011 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) before being determined as unconstitutional by a federal appeals court in 2014 (here).

Both the Florida ACLU and Dante Trevisani, the executive director of The Florida Justice Initiative, a nonprofit law firm that filed the 2011 lawsuit alongside the ACLU, told Reuters that although the law was deemed unconstitutional, the statute still exists on the Florida government website because the law was not repealed (it would have to be repealed by the Florida legislature to be removed from the Florida statutes) (here).

Despite the law being in the statute books, it cannot be enforced, Trevisani said. The ACLU echoed this, saying it “cannot be constitutionally enforced.”

The Florida Department of Children and Families, which oversees welfare benefits in the state, did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.


In 2011, Kentucky introduced a similar House Bill 208 that would require substance abuse screening for adults applying for monetary public assistance, food stamps, or medical assistance.

Mike Wynn, the public information manager for Kentucky’s Legislative Research Commission said that the bill was not passed. He added that he is not currently “aware of any law in Kentucky that would require recipients of public assistance to undergo drug tests.”

A Reuters search for House Bill 208 in the 2011 regular session on the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission’s website showed that the bill was not passed after being sent to Kentucky’s Health and Welfare Committee (here).


A Missouri House of Representatives website shows that House Bill 73 was passed in 2011, which requires certain applicants and beneficiaries of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to be tested for illegal drug use (here).

John Wells, a spokesperson for Missouri’s House of Representatives, confirmed that the bill was passed in 2011. More on what the policy entails can be seen (here) (here)


Partly false. Florida’s law to drug test all welfare recipients was struck down in 2014 by a federal appeals court. In Kentucky, a similar bill was never passed. A Missouri bill was passed in 2011 to allow for applicants for welfare benefits to be drug tested.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .


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