From the Archive

Fingerprinting for food stamps: time for it to end

January 8th, 2012 at 3:28 pm ET

The governor, prodded by Christine Quinn, has called upon New York City to stop fingerprinting applicants for food benefits, which according to a City Council analysis deters 20,000 people from claiming needed aid they are eligible for. That’s 20,000 families going hungry unnecessarily, for fear of fraud.

But the scale of actual fraud is tiny (as is virtually always the case when fraud is cited). The city says that in the last fiscal year, $4 million was saved through fingerprinting, through 1,200 duplications. 1.8 million people in New York City receive food stamps, meaning that the fraud rate is two-thirds of a tenth of one percent. Or, put another way, the number of families going hungry because of this policy is 17 times the number of fraud cases. Isn’t something wrong here?

I just saw NYC human resources commissioner Robert Doar on NY1 calling fingerprinting a simple and effective measure, but I doubt that the sort of people Doar (and Bloomberg) run with would put up with being fingerprinted so easily. Doar is a good guy, and should have enough sense to understand that New York City’s most vulnerable are the very ones who need fewer hurdles to jump, not more. Not to mention that even hungry people are entitled to a full measure of human dignity. Not being able to afford enough to eat is not a crime.

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