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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bloomberg's Plan for Fingerprinting Food Stamps Applicants Is Denounced

Fingerprinting Those Seeking Food Stamps Is Denounced

Published: October 11, 2011

Taking aim at a practice she called unnecessary, costly and punitive, the speaker of the City Council, Christine C. Quinn, is asking the Bloomberg administration to justify requiring applicants for food stamps to be electronically fingerprinted.

New York City, where 1.8 million people receive food stamps, is one of only two jurisdictions in the country that require applicants to be fingerprinted, according to Ms. Quinn’s office. The other is Arizona.

California and Texas recently lifted a similar requirement; New York stopped using fingerprinting for food-stamp recipients statewide in 2007, but kept it in New York City at the Bloomberg administration’s request.

Robert Doar, the commissioner of the city’s Human Resources Administration, said the policy deterred fraud and prevented case duplication, catching 1,200 duplicated cases a year and saving about $4 million annually in federal benefits.

But Ms. Quinn and opponents of the practice say that there is no evidence that it prevents fraud and that cases of duplication could be found through other means. Instead, they say, it simply deters some New Yorkers from applying for food stamps.

In an interview, Ms. Quinn said that, at a time of rising poverty and budget cuts, the city should not be spending money on unnecessary enforcement measures.

“We’re spending public dollars where there is no crime being committed,” she said.

Joel Berg, the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, said that electronic fingerprinting created a stigma around applying for federal aid, treating “poor people as if they’re basically criminals for trying to access a program to which they’re legally entitled.” Since many of the city’s applicants for food aid are minorities, Mr. Berg said, requiring fingerprinting here, and not in the rest of the state, also raised civil rights issues. It is “electronic stop-and-frisk,” he said.

The rest of the Bloomberg on food stamps article.

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