In his first appearance on WFSB’s “Face the State” Sunday, Department of Social Services Commissioner Roderick Bremby was asked about a controversial piece of legislation in Florida which allows the state to drug test welfare recipients before doling out benefits.
The law is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, which says the measure passed in June is unconstitutional.
But Bremby didn’t rule out drug testing for welfare recipients here in Connecticut.
“We’re going to take a look at what they’re doing down in Florida, but I think what the governor has found is a smaller incident or a smaller proportion of people who apply for federal assistance use drugs, than the general population,” Bremby said. “It’s been a huge waste of government resources to go out and test.”
“So we’re going sit back, we’re going to wait and we’re going to watch. If it’s effective, if it’s cost effective we might consider it, but now it’s a huge waste for Florida,” Bremby said. “Philosophically, I’m looking for the pragmatic implications of the act. I don’t believe that welfare recipients are any more drug users than anyone else, but what I do know is we need to provide the quality of services that everyone demands.”
Bremby was on the show to talk about the distribution of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits to low-income households who lost groceries during the power outage caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
Bremby’s agency had anticipated about 3,000 households would apply for the assistance so they were surprised when more than 25,000 individuals showed up last week at their 12 regional offices.
The benefits and the long lines became fodder for conservative talk show hosts who criticized the program and alleged their was fraud being committed by the individuals seeking the assistance.
“We’ll go back and we’ll review and do some audits,” Bremby said.
He said all of the individuals who received assistance had to prove their residency and their identity. He said that’s all that’s required of the federal government.
“I think it may be possible that a few people maybe exploited the system but we had 25,000 people representing families, children that received food assistance,“ Bremby said. “It wasn’t free money that you can take and spend on anything you want.”
He said it’s federal assistance and it’s food assistance. He said an audit will be conducted.