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Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS

Cuomo Bans Bloomberg’s Fingerprints for Food Stamps Policy

Posted by kristin , May 18, 2012

Cuomo Bans Bloomberg’s Fingerprints for Food Stamps Policy

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Housing Works and many other advocates of poor people in New York State commend Governor Cuomo’s announcement that he was ending the practice of fingerprinting food stamp applicants and recipients.

“There is never an excuse for letting any child in New York go to bed hungry,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release. “For too long, requiring finger imaging from those eligible for food stamp benefits has created an unnecessary barrier to participation in the program, causing a negative stigma and keeping food off the table for those in need. By removing this barrier, additional New Yorkers in need will be able to access the benefits they deserve without having to submit to this unneeded and burdensome requirement.”

The policy change was really aimed at New York City, as we are the only city in the state that still requires fingerprinting—a practice which NYC Mayor Bloomberg defends as a way to protect against fraud. but according to Cuomo’s office, “30 percent of New Yorkers eligible for food stamps — over 1.4 million people — do not receive them, leaving over $1 billion in federal funds unclaimed every year.”

In addition, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, reports that in 2010, only 3% of all Food Stamp payments went to ineligible households, or eligible households were overpaid. CBPP also notes that states have active and rigorous case reviews that catch such errors (usually made by bureaucrats, not cheating clients), so Bloomberg’s defense of fingerprinting to prevent fraud seems a waste of administrative resources that could be used for food stamps instead.

Food stamps aren’t just being debated in New York—the federal entitlement program was also in the national news this week. The House passed Rep Paul Ryan’s budget, which seeks to end the food stamp program as a federal entitlement (meaning: funding is made based on the number of people in need, no matter how many or how few) to being a block grant (meaning: Congress can determine how much it’s willing to spend, regardless of the number of people in need.). The Ryan Budget would cut $35.8 billion from the Food Stamp program (actually called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP).

In protest to the Ryan Budget, celebrity chef Mario Batali announced a Food Stamp Challenge, on his show. Batali challenged Americans to “live in someone else’s shoes” by eating on the budget of someone on food stamps for an entire week—$31 per week, or $1.48 per meal.

Follow the Update blog on Twitter @housingworks.

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