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Food Stamps


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is advocating New York City council to stop requiring fingerprinting when persons pick up food stamps. However, that stance has created problems with the city’s mayor, who believes that the practice prevents fraud. However, Cuomo has stated that fingerprinting places a stigma on the needy people of the city and in his recent State speech, Cuomo pledged to stop fingerprinting food stamp recipients this year.


Mayor Bloomberg says without fingerprinting, fraud is destined to escalate. Arizona is the only place where the policy also exists. New York was one of the state to use digital imaging to take people’s fingerprints in 1996. Three states did adopt the practice, however two of them, California and Texas, ended the fingerprinting process last year. New York City is the only place in the state that fingerprints its food assistance recipients.


Nonprofit organizations that help lower income New York families with meals agree with Cuomo and say more people will seek food assistant if the fingerprinting is not ended.


”There’s no doubt that there will be a rise,” says Erasma Beras-Monticciolo from the East River Development Alliance. The East River Development Alliance is a nonprofit that delivers food stamp applications. Beras-Monticciolo says that her group works with all sorts of populations that do not like fingerprinting, including women who are recently released from prison.


“It’s a continuous dialogue with them about why you should access these benefits, what it’s going to mean for yourself to create some stability in your life,” Beras-Monticciolo says.


As a food stamp counselor, she says that the working poor find it very difficult to take an days off, and the also avoid food stamps because of the process, which includes standing in line to be fingerprinted. Outside a food stamp office in Manhattan, there are food stamp recipients who said that if people need food bad enough, they will comply with the restrictions.


One recipient is Briscoe who is disabled and receives $200 per month with food stamps. He agrees with fingerprinting and says that it is the best way to ensure that the truly need receive the benefit. It’s the same argument that Bloomberg makes in an effort to keep the practice. According to the city statistics, in 2010 fingerprinting detected 1,900 duplicate food stamp cases. About 1.8 million people receive food stamps in New York City. Those 1,900 cases would have taken over $5 million in taxpayer money. The city is not able to say whether those cases were actually fraud.


There are more than 600,000 citizens in New York who are eligible for food stamps who simply don’t go through the process. If the fingerprinting laws were lifted, there could be more families receiving food stamp benefits, but not everyone thinks that this is a good idea.


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